By PAM HARBAUGH
It may be 60 years old, but the thematic under pinnings of “Twelve Angry Men” are as relevant today as they were in the 1950s. They come out loud and clear in Cocoa Village Playhouse’s handsome and compelling production of the Reginald Rose drama.
First there are the racist rants of Juror Ten who, convinced that the accused is guilty, says “Look at the kind of people they are — you know them.” It doesn’t take much of a leap to see how that damn-them-all attitude still infects current events.
Then there’s a jury-room where a dozen men of varying demographics can’t even agree on whether they can agree or not; and Juror Three (, so much a bully, is ready to pound some sense into them all.
And, finally, Juror Eight, the lone holdout who seeks the boundaries of reasonable doubt before declaring a young man guilty of murder.
It’s a life and death decision. If guilty, it means execution. If innocent, it could mean that a killer is set free. And while we end up learning how the jury votes, we don’t really know if they are right or not.
Director Anastasia Hawkins-Smith assembles a strong cast for this show.
Standouts include Brian Smith who finds deep complexity to Juror Ten and renders the bigoted man as bitter and empty. Rick Roach brings a sadistic darkness to Juror Three, especially as he says he’d like to be the one to execute the accused. Steve Cassidy paints Juror Two as a funny little man, a Casper Milquetoast who eventually finds his spine.
James Spiva brings a sweet understatement to Juror Four, a man who has made a success for himself and seeks the balance of rational thought. Keith Larson is perfectly cast as Juror Eight, a compassionate man who toils for the truth. And Arlan Ropp brings a complex portrayal of Juror Nine, an older man who carries a guilty truth of his own.
Of course, one of the difficulties with staging this show is the fact that a dozen people gather around a table. That means people turning their back to the audience. However, Ms. Hawkins-Smith keeps the actors moving and finds plenty of dramatic images to underscore the stronger moments.
Ian Cook’s set and lighting are simple and effective, never upstaging the actors. The most “telling” as to time and place are the costumes, which are designed by Dan Hill who gives as thorough attention to character as he does to the 1954 setting. Sharon Metz’ hair design is also very well done and in keeping with character and period.
Congrats to Daniel Klintworth who composed the original music used to open and close the show. It’s smokey, intriguing and has that nice appeal of the Golden Age of Television, for which Mr. Rose originally created this drama.
Regarding that TV drama:“Twelve Angry Men” was well received in 1954, then in 1957 for the movie with a star-packed cast. It went on to London’s stages. It’s been done pretty near every community theater and academic theater around the country, Ironically, it just found its way to Broadway in 2004 when the Roundabout Theater Company mounted a production of it.
But now, it’s Cocoa Village Playhouse’s turn at it. They do the play justice. And it’s nice to see a drama on their stage. I hope you find the time to see it…but you’ll have to act fast. Just one more performance — 2 p.m. tomorrow (Sunday, Jan. 11).
SIDE O’ GRITS: “Twelve Angry Men” runs 2 p.m. Jan. 11 at Cocoa Village Playhouse, 300 Brevard Ave., Cocoa. Tickets are $19 to $27. Handling fees may apply. Call 321-636-5050 or visit www.CocoaVillagePlayhouse.com.