Posted on June 11, 2021 at 11:58 p.m.
Someone overheard the teenager threatening to kill the victim. Someone else, through an open window, saw him stab the victim. A witness heard the victim’s body banging on the floor of the apartment above and saw the teenager flee from the scene. The suspect was known to be a man with a knife and the victim was killed with a knife. He’s guilty of first degree murder, isn’t he? Deserves a death sentence, right?
Reginald Rose’s ’12 Angry Jurors’, on the weekends through June 20, The Pennsylvania Playhouse, Bethlehem, tells the story of 12 jurors as they battle in a hot and stuffy jury room to overcome challenges. Racial and ethnic prejudices, hatred, preconceptions and specious reasoning come to a verdict that hardly anyone is happy with.
Some are in a hurry to meet commitments such as a football game that night. The evidence is clear, so let’s get it over with.
Another brings his own rotten upbringing and sadism to the jury room and seems thrilled at the idea of sending a child to death row. Others have their own problems.
Gary Boyer (Jury Foreman) tries to exercise his authority, but fails to keep the jurors worthy and on track. But it cannot contain their passions or correct their faults.
The character of Shaun Hayes (Juror 3) is always confident in his opinion at the top of his lungs and intimidates others into quickly complying with a guilty verdict. Hayes brings a great sense of realism to the stage with his outrage and barely contained violence.
Dara Connelly (Juré 8), showing moral courage, becomes the opposite pole of Juré 3 who sets up a magnetic tension. Determining which pole can exert the greatest attraction on the lesser characters becomes the main plot.
Connelly and Hayes are strong characters. Connelly is quietly brave and convincing, a seeker of justice, while Hayes is all belligerent and boastful. Each is superb.
Distinguished by her stylish wardrobe and imperial allure, Renata Zumberger (Juror 4) shines like the reasonable one who makes others think about evidence. Zumberg has a stage presence which suggests a patrician education and a noble impartiality.
Gabe Craig (Juror 5) captures the essence of a young man who is unsure of himself in the face of the opinion of his elders. His second-hand knife fighting expertise seems to influence others. “You don’t handle a switch knife that way. You use it slyly.
Parker Ryan (Juror 7) has the character sure of himself and in a hurry. He shows little patience with anyone who changes his mind, mainly because it prevents him from taking care of important things.
As an older, vaguely accented European immigrant, Denise Shelton (Juror 11) takes it seriously with her plaintive demand that others respect human dignity.
Her counterpart is Trish Steele (juror 10), who convincingly sees the world through her racist lens: “I don’t understand you. How can you believe this kid is innocent? Steele’s performance is both banal and startlingly realistic.
A basic element in any contentious group is the weak, easily persuaded person who is convinced by the last speaker. Jillian McLuhan (Juror 2) convinces in this role. She masters indecisive gaze and flexible opinion.
Susan Matol (juror 12), is calculating in her assessment of the situation. His character of a jaded salesman seems to rule his character. “It seems to me that it is up to us to convince this[Juror8)thatwearerightandthatsheisdoing[Juror8)thatwe’rerightandshe’swrong”[Jurée8)quenousavonsraisonetqu’elleatort[Juror8)thatwe’rerightandshe’swrong”
Providing texture, John Corl (Juror 9) is credible as an older man who seems too tired to contribute, but gives an ugly face to those who wish to be doomed. “What a terrible thing for a man to believe! Since when has dishonesty been a feature of the group “He sums up Shaun Hayes’ thirst for blood (juror 3):” This man is dangerous.
Michael Sheridan (guard and clerk) gives the guard a detached, polite, but pragmatic approach.
Although present off the stage, Gene Connelly’s strong and authoritative voice (judge) is a key part of the dialogue. “It is now your job to try to separate fact from imagination. “
Costume designer Todd Burkel perfectly captures the era of the 1950s, a time when women wore pillbox hats and men wore seersucker suits and bow ties.
Kristen Wettstein and Brett Oliveira share credit as lighting designers. They capture a feeling of suffocation and of being perfectly locked up. Oliveira also designed the simple and austere set of court house furniture that was used a lot.
Marian Barshinger is very successful as the director of “12 Angry Jurors”.
Tickets: http://www.paplayhouse.org/; 610-865-6665