GoKash Productions presents Reginald Rose’s 12 ANGRY MEN. I attended Thursday evening’s performance; the July heat lent itself to the heated jurors on stage at the historic Plays and Players Theatre. Between the current verdict of a high profile court case still buzzing in the media, and the soaring temperatures, the play couldn’t have been more appropriate for an evening of theatre in the city.
Directed by Ozzie Jones, and based on Rose’s 1954 teleplay, the story unfolds around the decision of 12 jurors in what seems to be an open-and-shut murder case. In Jones’ production he’s opted for an all African American cast of both men and women, and it worked, revealing the racial prejudice that sometimes goes unmentioned today, that within a particular like faction of people. As we meet the cast of unnamed characters struggling with such an important decision, the layers of the onion are peeled back to reveal ulterior motives, hidden agendas, and revelations of the heart. Originally a play in 3 acts, Rose also wrote the screenplay for the Oscar nominated film sensation, directed by Sidney Lumet and starring heavy hitters like Henry Fonda and Jack Klugman. Broadway’s RoundAbout Theatre revived the classic in 2005, earning it several Tony Awards including Best Actor, Best Director and Best Revival.
Like its earlier success on stage and in film, this production has plenty of heart, intensity, and impressive performances. Carlo Campbell as the undecided 8th juror gave an excellent interpretation of a meaty role. His performance was understated, honest and compelling. Daira Guerra as the troubled 3rd juror brought an intensity from her first moment on stage. Initially her intensity seemed to come out of nowhere, and I was skeptical, but as the story unfolds we learn of her own troubled relationships, and by the conclusion what was once dislike of her character becomes sympathy, not only from the audience, but from her fellow jurors. Other supporting stand-outs include the lovely Roni Graham (4th Juror), 7th Juror Tobi Gadison, 11th Juror Liz Priestley, Monroe Barrick (10th Juror) and the wise “matriarch” of the jury, Lenny D (9th Juror). All the performances were excellent, the actors seemed comfortable in their caged space, like they had been there for hours and knew every inch of where they could and couldn’t move, which is what I imagine being sequestered in an uncomfortable room with strangers would produce. They naturally spoke over each other as well; Jones’ tight staging and talented cast served the story well.
Kash Goins, founder of GoKash Productions, is also creator of the Philly Urban Theatre Festival (PUTF), set to present its next festival in 2014. This ambitious young producer, actor and creator is one to keep an eye on. Next up is August Wilson’s FENCES, also appearing at Plays and Players.
12 ANGRY MEN is a poignant, thought provoking piece; kudos to the cast, director Jones and the producer. The show’s running time is just 60 minutes, without intermission.
12 ANGRY MEN
by Reginald Rose
Directed by Ozzie Jones
July 16-28, 2013
Third Floor Studio @ Plays and Player’s Theatre
1714 Delancey Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103