Reviewed by Janice Bailey
Matt Byrne Media’s current production of the iconic 12 Angry Men, written by Reginald Rose, is a gripping and engrossing examination of a diverse group of all male jurors, brought together in a seemingly pre-determined murder trial of a young Puerto Rican male accused of killing his father. The play is a powerful commentary on the trial by jury system in America in the 50s. It can also be seen as a commentary on McCarthyism and Communism.
The audience are ushered into the jury room by The Guard, played by Rohan Richards. ‘Locked in’ we become witnesses to the heated discussions and reactions of each of the men based on their personal beliefs and prejudices. The jurors have numbers, not names. The audience are given a disc correlating to one of the jurors to connect us to the proceedings. The set and costuming are excellent with attention to detail of the era. It is a hot day and there is no relief within this sterile environment. Consequently the jurors want a quick decision and to get out of there as soon as they can. A vote is called for and only Juror No 8, played convincingly by David Grybowski , has the courage to vote ‘against the flow’. His dissenting vote compels the group to re-examine the facts of the case as well as their own weaknesses and personal beliefs and bias. This leads to heated discussions, the formation of alliances, changing of opinions, fierce outbursts, insults and the revelation of the impact of personal experiences on the beliefs of each of the men. Byrne has assembled a strong cast and the jurors all display a clear understanding of their role. It is a very strong ensemble cast but mention should be made of the compelling performances of Grybowski, James Whitrow, David Haviland and Byrne as Juror No 3.
12 Angry Men is a well-written play with well-defined characters. This production is an experience well worth making the trip to Holden Street Theatres for.