Get your tickets today for 12 Angry Jurors!
By Ellis Conklin
It is 1957, a hot summer day in New York City. Dr. Seuss’s Cat in the Hat is soon to become that year’s best-seller. Brigadoon has crowds pouring into Broadway theaters. The Giants and Dodgers are playing their final season in the Big Apple. And, in a few months, the world will change forever when the Soviet Union launches Sputnik-1, the earth’s first artificial satellite.
Meanwhile, on this sweltering late-afternoon, a gripping, suspenseful courtroom drama is unfolding inside a claustrophobic New York jury room, giving a startled audience a behind-the-scenes glimpse at how jury deliberations take place during a murder trial.
12 Angry Men was initially broadcast as a television play in 1954 and proved so popular that it was adapted for the stage. The acclaimed Hollywood director Sidney Lumet three years later directed the well-received screen adaptation of 12 Angry Men, starring Henry Fonda.
A 19-year-old man, a tenement-dwelling Hispanic, has just gone through a six-day trial for the fatal stabbing of his father. “He doesn’t stand a chance,” mutters the guard as the 12 jurors are led into a bleak, sweltering jury room. It looks like an open-and-shut case – until one of the jurors begins sowing seeds of reasonable doubt in the others’ eyes. Tempers flare, arguments grow heated, and the jurors, several of who nearly come of blows, become 12 angry jurors!
At the outset of deliberations on this stifling summer afternoon, 11 voters deliver “guilty” verdicts, and only Juror No. 8 submits a verdict of “not guilty.” Masterfully played by Sue Neuer, she urges the others to rethink their position and to take their time doing so – this despite impatient and clownish Juror No. 7’s (Jon Helzer) plea that he has tickets to see Damn Yankees on Broadway and wants this ordeal to end sooner than later.
But, argues Neuer, a young life of the accused is at stake. Neuer demonstrates that the murder weapon – a switchblade – is hardly as unique as the prosecution claimed, and the eldest Juror No. 9 (Ellis Conklin) shocks his fellow jurors by joining her in a “not guilty” vote.
Soon, Juror No. 5 (Walter Mills) also changes his verdict to “not guilty,” and slowly but surely the dominos fall in favor of the 19-year-old. At the end, those that will not abide of any evidence that perhaps creates reasonable doubt are Jurors No. 3 (Bryan Churchill, who delivers a mesmerizing performance), No. 4 (Bryonie Arnold), and Juror No. 10 (Jacob Merwin), who, unlike the other jurors, demonstrates no real change in character and remains tainted by unbridled, unremorseful racism.
The juror’s final verdict and how they reach it, in tense scenes that electrify audiences and keep them on the edge of their seats, add up to a fine, mature piece of dramatic literature that is not to be missed.
In essence, this a play about 12 people in charge of deciding, not the guilt or innocence of this young man, but only whether there is reasonable doubt.
If there is one underlying theme to 12 Angry Jurors it maybe that anything is possible. As Juror No. 9 wisely puts in during one memorable scene in Act 2, he says of Juror No. 8’s decision early on to become the lone “not guilty” vote: “It takes a great deal of courage to stand alone even if you believe in something very strongly.”
Tickets for the 9-performance run are going fast. Pick some up today, for you don’t want to miss this!
“12 Angry Jurors”
By Reginald Rose
Directed by Frank Squillo
Performed by the Riverbend Players
Cast members: Juli Stratton (Juror No. 1 and foreman), Linda Ollson (Juror No. 2), Bryan Churchill (Juror No. 3), Bryonie Arnold (Juror No. 4, Walter Mills (Juror No. 5), Thomas Mattia (Juror No. 6), Jon Helzer (Juror No. 7), Sue Neuer (Juror No. 8), Ellis Conklin (Juror No. 9), Jacob Merwin (Juror No. 10), Linda Makohon (Juror No. 11), Mark Bartrom Juror No. 12), and Linda Petersen, (the bailiff).
Location: North County Recreation District’s Performing Arts Center at 36155 9th St, Nehalem, OR.
Time: 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturdays, beginning June 2 to June 18.
Sunday matinees performances at 2 p.m.
Tickets: $20 and $25. Available online, or at the door.