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. Philip Ernest Schoenberg 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
I recently saw an outstanding production of Twelve Angry Men at The Community Church of East Williston. Louis V. Fucilo, the director, and the producers, Mark Danielson and Bob & Charlene Eckhoff, chose a most able group of actors that truly personified men of the 1950s. The ensemble of players included Joseph Anfora, Jonathan Baker, Nathan Bischoff, Al Carbuto, John Carrozza, Robert Hertz, Andy Minet, Joseph Montano, Joe Pepe, John Rowe, Joseph Schweigert, Raymond A. Tallercio, and Michael Wolf. Virtually everyone wore a tie, which was customary in 1954. Fucilo, the director, brought out the best in each of the actors. It was easy to believe that each of the jurors were passionate citizens of the era, not button-down calm conformists. They each became real people with all the faults and imperfections of human beings, not godlings, who have to determine the fate of the accused. Reginald Rose has written a play that encapsulates the true spirit of New Yorkers living in the 1950s - an honest portrayal and not an idealized perspective borne of nostalgia. Twelve Angry Men is a true diamond in the rough.
I am reminded of Fiddler On The Roof, the movie directed by Norman Jewison. When he was asked why he picked Chaim Topol over Zero Mostel, he explained he wanted an ensemble production, not a star vehicle dominated by Zero Mostel. No names were used in this play to highlight one man's use of reason to built consensus towards a not guilty verdict. Reginald Rose wrote toward the end of the Golden Age of Television when live drama was coming to an end. He was able to produce a highly engaging, emotionally taut, high stakes drama: guilt or innocence for a man charged with murder. If found guilty, the accused would be executed. The deliberations held our interest with very few gimmicks with the one exception of Juror #8 producing a switch blade knife he purchased at a local store in the slum where the accused lived with his father. The prosecution had made the point that the knife used to kill the boy's father was somewhat unique. Juror #8 bought the exact same knife to show that someone else could easily have purchased a similar knife. This drama, written by Reginald Rose, has aged well and still holds up needing no tricks to remain interesting.
All the actors in this production perform well and make their characters come alive with energy and emotion. Each of the ensemble players performed their roles without overwhelming the other actors. Jonathan Baker as Juror #11 was very believable as a "New American" who believes that the American dream - even justice - applies to everyone. His European accent made him appear very authentic. Michael Wolf, Juror #10, played rough-at-the-edges garage owner who, depending on your mood, you might or might not want to sit next to. He expresses thoughts you usually keep hidden from yourself.
Louis V. Fucilo's set design and decoration, aided by Mark Danielson and Bob Eckhoff, succeeded in transforming the stage into a courtroom, an intimate space where people could view the action and hear the performance from three sides. Lighting highlighted the jurors as they spoke and signified the passage of time. Unfortunately, given that the jurors were seated around a Board Room table, depending on where you sat, the jurors were not always visible to the audience when it came their time to speak. Although total perfection was not attained, we still have here a most excellent production well worth seeing.
Thanks to fine writing and to the skilled acting, at no point does your interest drift off. You are drawn in and don't want to miss the action. This is a great play that is performed very authentically. This is American drama at its best. Don't miss it! Especially since refreshments are a most reasonable $1.00 for each item!