12 Angry Men
Dates 19 - 22 September 2007, 8pm Venue Pacific Theatre
Reviewer Erin Jane
I took my seat in the cozy Pacific Theatre as a confident and energetic young director, Ian Farthing, informed the audience that this would be a staged reading: the actors had only had two and a half days to prepare, and would have their scripts on hand tonight.
Never having been to a staged reading before, I was undecided but curious. The 85-minute play began as twelve men filed onto the stage. As they loosened their ties and fanned themselves with papers and notebooks, I remembered at once the hot summer night that surrounds the storyline of 12 Angry Men.
The staged reading used only the suggestion of a set design and costumes. All men were wearing business suits and ties, but as the play progressed, the warm, claustrophobic jury room had most of the characters discarding suit jackets, loosening ties and rolling up sleeves. The heat was well suggested by the actors as they sometimes used their script books to fan themselves. A large, wooden table that was littered with paper and pencils took up most of the space of the set, and was effective in creating a claustrophobic jury room.
The claustrophobic atmosphere coupled with the heat became very believable factors in encouraging short fuses and tempers, and the men are at times rational, at other times explosively angry. Theatre veteran Michael Kopsa plays an excellent Juror # 3, exasperated and angry at every turn, at times blowing up like a volcano spewing insults and threats to the other men.
Allen des Noyers also plays an excellent Juror # 8 (Henry Fonda in the film version), who is the first juror to question the young defendant’s guilt and leads the discussion on the possibility of reasonable doubt. Ron Reed, who founded Pacific Theatre in 1984, plays Juror #1 and Foreman, the casual, more soft-spoken juror who is eager not to make waves and keep the discussion civil.
I have always liked the stage set-up at Pacific Theatre because of its uniqueness. Being on the smaller side, the theatre consists of two small seating areas, almost book ending the stage on either side, so that the audience is facing each other. Despite the obvious challenges it poses for any actor endeavouring to perform there, all twelve men succeeded in blocking themselves and positioning themselves so that both sides of the audience could see and hear effectively.
As the play progressed, I began to feel like the men were becoming more and more familiar to me. Each actor was natural in his role, and each had his own mannerisms and demeanour so that you could recognize their characters quickly as the play progressed, which is quite a feat since no names are given for any of the twelve characters, and most of the men were middle-aged and Caucasian.
Pacific Theatre’s 12 Angry Men is only running for a short time – 5 staged readings, that’s all – but I thought it proved a fantastic introduction to this year’s season, since for the rest of the year, theatre patrons will be enjoying several other adaptations of classic movies that were adapted from a play to film, or a film that is adapted to theatre.
© 2007 Erin Jane