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May 21, 2008 > Theater Review: Twelve angry men liven up Broadway West

Theater Review: Twelve angry men liven up Broadway West

By Vidya Pradhan

To those of us who have not had the privilege of jury duty, our only experience of the courtroom comes from films and television. Police dramas tell us how a crime is solved and the accused identified; courtroom dramas present impassioned pleas of the prosecutor and defense attorney. Yet, one of the most important pieces of the service of justice, jury deliberations, is often relegated to a few seconds as the jury foreperson rises at the end and delivers a verdict.

In "Twelve Angry Men," a critically acclaimed play by Reginald Rose, we get to be flies on the wall to watch the American justice system in its most lofty and most human moments. We watch jurors on a murder case deliberate whether there is reasonable doubt that the accused, a violent nineteen year old with a history of criminal action, has killed his father.

From May 16th to June 14th, Broadway West, Fremont's very own cultural watering hole presents a taut and engaging drama, set entirely in one jury room,. Director Mary Galde puts together an extraordinary ensemble to give theatergoers a real treat.

"Twelve Angry Men" begins as the jurors file into the jury room on a hot summer day. Most are eager to get the proceedings over with and get back to their lives after six days of observing what, at first glance, appears to be an open and shut case. They decide to vote - to end the matter quickly. On the first vote, one lone juror - Juror #8 - dissents, not because he believes the accused is innocent, but because he thinks that the jury should respect the process and not hastily send a man to his death.

The drama unfolds as Juror #8 attempts to convince his fellow members of the need to further examine the evidence, despite the whole exercise looking rather pointless and time consuming to the rest.

To a new generation used to shows like "CSI" and "Law and Order," the forensics of the case may seem hopelessly outdated, but that is not the point of the play. What is fascinating, and makes the play's appeal universal and timeless, is the emotional baggage that pervades what is meant to be a cerebral, clinical and matter-of-fact examination of the evidence and the case made by the lawyers. Being only too human, the jurors bring their prejudices, biases and history to the table, making the whole exercise of jury deliberations one fraught with the possibility of misjudgment.

Matt Matthews as Juror #8 and Todd Wright as the emotional and sadistic Juror #3 give good performances, though the entire cast projects their voices as if they were in Broadway and not in an intimate venue where even a whisper would be heard. A screen is used inventively to show us what is happening outside the room.

Twelve Angry Men is thoroughly enjoyable even to people who have seen the 1957 movie with Henry Fonda in the lead role or any of the theatrical performances. It is, at heart, about our capacity as humans to find the best and the worst in ourselves.

Twelve Angry Men
May 16th - June 14th
8 p.m. (1 p.m. Sunday)
Broadway West Theater
4000 B-Bay Street, Fremont, CA.
(510) 683-9218

Tickets: Adults $22, $17 Senior/Student/TBA Member (no discounts on Opening Night or Sundays) $15 Thursday, all seats!

Showtimes: 8 pm: Fridays and Saturdays / 8pm: Thursdays, May 22, 29; June 5, 12
1pm: Sundays, May 25; June 1 & June 8

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