Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Twelve Angry Men (The SOB Review) - State Theatre, Minneapolis, MN

Twelve Angry Men (The SOB Review) - State Theatre, Minneapolis, MN

*** (out of ****)

It would be all too easy to dismiss the current revival of Twelve Angry Men that's presently touring the U.S. as some quaint relic from years gone by. Instead, it's a rapid-paced, gripping jury box drama with racial overtones that still resonates today.

Racism in 2006 may not be as overt as it was when Twelve Angry Men was first produced as a teleplay back in 1954 and then as a film in 1957. But as high profile names like Mel Gibson and Michael Richards have demonstrated all too well, it still rears its ugly head as it continues to bubble under the surface of society. It can even lead supposedly rational individuals to hastily jump to ill-conceived conclusions.

Such is the case in Twelve Angry Men, where one Juror Number Eight (Richard Thomas) stands in the way of this all white male jury from being able to go home, all because of that pesky detail called "reasonable doubt." Juror Number Eight has the courage of his convictions in questioning the inconsistencies of evidence presented as he dutifully implores his colleagues to convince him beyond a reasonable doubt. Yet through his thought-provoking questions, one by one, the number voting "guilty" dwindles until it's reduced to those wearing their racism on their sleeves.

This production has a terrific cast headed by Thomas and George Wendt as the foreman. The ensemble effectively captures a 50's time capsule amalgam of white America ranging from those who are pure of heart to those who have racial purity in their hearts (like Julian Gamble as Juror Number Ten), along with everything in between like Todd Cerveris' somewhat tortured Juror Number Two.

For all of Scott Ellis' efficiently swift direction, it might be nitpicky, but with the racially-charged nature of the deliberations taking place during the 1950s, it seems highly improbable that an entire jury would turn during the play's real-time course of just 90 minutes. But on the plus side, it makes for a tight and effective drama well worth seeing.

The production opens this evening at the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center in Appleton, Wisconsin.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

Click here for tickets.

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