Saturday, June 16, 2012

REVIEW: Cast of Magenta's "Twelve Angry Women" Does Justice to TV Classic

Reginald Rose's "Twelve Angry Men" was broadcast initially as a television play in 1954, the following year it was adapted for the stage, and, in 1957, was made into a highly successful film. Since then it has been adapted, remade, and "homaged" many times in many ways.  This adaptation, by Sherman L. Sergel, features an all-female jury.

When a teenager from the wrong side of the tracks is on trial for murder, the twelve members of the jury must overcome their own prejudices and assumptions to reach a consensus on his fate. The verdict is nearly unanimous, when the single dissenter forces them to face their own prejudices and unite their conflicting personalities to find true justice.

The Magenta Theater production was a homage in its own right, making a bow to the original black and white television drama--everything in the set and costuming in grayscale. And, beyond that, making it visually interesting--what a challenge! Having participated in several Last Supper dramas I know it is difficult to make the action of twelve people, mostly seated around a table, something interesting to look at. Director Jaynie Roberts did just that.

The Jurisdiction

The cast of "Twelve Angry Women." Photo provided, no photographs were allowed.
The first two of three acts moved at a good clip and were never boring, ending in the high arch of conflict. [The intermission announcements were quite amusing.] The third act began exactly where act two left off and quickly subsided into a false lull, then rose again to provide the invigorating resolution.

The nuances of each actress were all-consuming, even when they weren't speaking. There was just too much too watch. The dialogue, too, was captivating. Listen closely and you will hear each of their frail arguments for a guilty verdict fall away like so much hot air. This is a very fascinating drama.

Right from the first act's stage load hints are evident as to where each player stands. The stage was used masterfully to convey the position of each role. The interchange and interaction between the characters was, indeed, brilliant.

The Jury

It would be hard to assemble twelve actresses strong enough to carry each role. Yes, some were weaker than others, but each had their moment to shine, as well. None of the players have names, which, along with their character faces not matching with their cast photos, makes it immediately hard to identify who is who. [I had to ask.] Even the unseen accused cannot be identified as to racial ethnicity (though we know from some obvious bigotry that he is a minority). Crafty writing.

The show stars Patti Reynolds, Renee Faddis, Angel Landchild, KC Cooper, Elizabeth Tindall, Leann Johnson, Brenda McGinnis, Melissa Barnick, Michael Glover, Andrea Adams, Denise Lukins and Sheila McCormack as the jurors. Alice Williams plays the court guard and Katie Skinner is an alternate juror (on select nights) for Barnick.

Standouts were Tindall as the mousy, stuttering juror, Barnick as the dissenting juror (who carries the weight of the show), Adams as the bigoted juror, Lukins as the foreign juror (her accent is marvelous) and Williams as the guard. However, ALL played their roles quite well. I didn't quite understand the motivation of the authoritative and hostile juror, played by Landchild, so it was, at first, hard for me to see her as anything but deranged. Williams was amusing and provided the primary comic relief for this otherwise serious drama.

The Judgement

While quite cool, I found the set slightly comical--almost Suessian in its playfulness--and surreal, except for the photograph of JFK that was too real the rest of the set. 

My only real criticism though is with the script's premise: Why wasn't the defendant's lawyer smart enough to bring the holes in the case to light? Perhaps he was bigoted, as well, and didn't care? Oh, and speaking of light, there was an odd lighting cue in the third act that I didn't quite get--it might have worked for me had it been a more intimate pool.

My final judgement?

You should see this excellent, captivating drama. Get your tickets right away. Opening night was nearly sold out. (Most plays don't open like that--except, I guess, at Magenta.) Tickets, $12-15, are available here at the Magenta website. The play runs June 16, 21, 22, 23, 28 and 29 at 7:30 p.m. and June 23 and 30 at 2 p.m. Performances take place at the Magenta Theater, 606 Main St., Vancouver, Wash.

By Gregory E. Zschomler

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Greg! Always appreciated. This is an amazing show and all 14 of us + crew are exceedingly proud to be putting it on!