This review of The Billboard Players' production of Reginald Rose's Twelve Angry Men at The Community Church of East Williston was written by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens and published in Volume X, Issue 8 (2018) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!
Twelve Angry Men
Written By Reginald Rose
Directed by Louis V. Fucilo
The Community Church of East Williston
45 East Williston Avenue
East Williston, New York 11596
Twelve Angry Men was first made as a 1954 teleplay for the Studio One anthology television series and was aired live on CBS on September 20, 1954. While Reginald Rose re-wrote Twelve Angry Men for the stage in 1955, it didn't make it to Broadway until, in 2004, the Roundabout Theatre Company produced it at the American Airlines Theatre, where it ran for 328 performances. The play concerns the deliberations of a jury in a case involving a slum-residing, economically deprived, 16-year old boy with a prior criminal record accused of stabbing his father to death with a switchblade knife. While, at the beginning of jury deliberations, an initial vote reveals a nearly unanimous decision of guilty, Juror #8 votes not guilty simply because he would like the jury to discuss the evidence before condemning the boy to death, which we are told is the mandatory sentence in this case. Pleas for mercy will not be considered by the Judge.
The facts are quite interesting and the play reflects how a real jury might, in actuality, weigh the evidence presented to them. Some of the jurors enter the jury room with personal prejudices while others couldn't care less what the verdict is so long as they're not stuck there for too long. Some jurors complain about the heat while others are hungry. A number of them bring into the discussion facts not in evidence while others question whether the defendant's Court-appointed attorney did a good enough job cross-examining the witnesses. Many of the men demand that each juror justify why they are voting the way they do while others are willing to pre-judge the boy based on stereotypes they hold and that the criminal defendant may be predisposed to violence given his past criminal record, and the physical abuse he has suffered at the hands of his father. The main question is not whether the boy committed the murder but whether "reasonable doubt" exists based on the evidence. This makes for quite an enjoyable journey before the ultimate decision is made.
I went into this production concerned whether a 1950s teleplay would still ring true and resonate sixty-four years later and I am happy, but also sad, to report that the more things change, the more they remain the same. Many like to idealize the 1950s and argue that today, people are too easily "triggered" and "offended" by politically incorrect speech. Young kids are taking challenges to eat Tide pods and snort condoms. But those same people forget that in the 1950s, frat boys accepted challenges to swallow live goldfish. As for being easily offended, many of the jurors in this play take constant umbrage at what someone else says to them or some inference that is make, and a number of the jurors are even ready to engage in fisticuffs to confront the perceived insults. Upon reflection, very little seems to have changed over the years. Prejudice against foreigners, unpopular political opinions, and stereotypical views of slum-dwellers are all expressed and appear to be a constant in all societies and cultures.
The two most impressive actors in this production are Michael Wolf (Juror #10) and Raymond A. Taliercio (Juror #3). Mr. Wolf captivates the audience during his racist rants ("if you know what I mean") and Mr. Taliercio, whose character is estranged from his own son, is responsible for the most dramatic moments in the play. John Rowe also stands out as Juror #7, the guy who really couldn't care less which way the verdict goes so long as he can make the Yankees game on time. John Carrozza is strong as Juror #8 and reveals that even his character has the potential for violence in him. The remaining jurors each carried their own and all did a fine job. Those jurors were Joseph Anfora (Juror #1/Foreman), Andy Minet (Juror #2), Joe Pepe (Juror #4), Joseph Schweigert (Juror #5), Joseph Montano (Juror #6), Al Carbuto (Juror #9), Jonathan Baker (Juror #11), and Robert Hertz (Juror #12). Louis V. Fucilo, the Director, played the Judge, newcomer Nathan Bischoff, played the Guard. All should be very proud of their contributions to the success of this production.
You can catch remaining performances of Twelve Angry Men on Fridays, April 20 & 27th at 8:00 p.m.; Saturdays, April 21st & 28th at 8:00 p.m.; and on Sundays, April 22nd & 29th at 3:00 p.m. Tickets are $15.00 for adults and $12.00 for seniors. For reservations and more information, call 516-746-7356 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. All concession items are $1.00 a piece. Extremely reasonable prices for soda and candy! They also served decaffeinated coffee. If you want coffee with caffeine, you will have to ask for it. I got my little cup of joy and had a wonderful time seeing this play. There is no better value you can get for your money! I highly recommend this production of Twelve Angry Men. It will give you much to talk about with your friends over dinner afterwards.