IF YOU GO
What: Stage version of the 1957 film about 12 jurors deciding guilt or innocence in a murder case
When: 8 p.m. Wed. - Sat.; 3 p.m. Sun. through Jan. 29
Where: 1055 N. Collier Blvd. Marco Island
Cost: $25 & $23
Information: Call 642-7270 or themarcoplayers.com
Something Else: The theater is located in the Marco Town Center Mall directly across from the Crazy Flamingo restaurant.
On the Web: Sign up to receive more theater news from the Stage Door blog via email.
MARCO ISLAND — The Marco Players searched for truth, justice and the American way Thursday night during a tense production of "Twelve Angry Jurors." Courtroom dramas litter our TV screens - but this one crackles with intensity, personality conflicts and bitter disagreements. The verdict? A solid hit.
Reginald Rose originally penned "Twelve Angry Men" as a 1954 teleplay for CBS. It was adapted for the stage in 1955 and as a feature film in 1957. The movie, titled "12 Angry Men," was directed by Sidney Lumet and starred Henry Fonda as Juror #8.
"Twelve Angry Jurors" takes a hard look at what goes on inside a 1950s-era jury room. Jurors face what looks like an open-and-shut murder case - except that one man (Juror #8) disagrees. He wants the boy (no names are ever used) to at least get an honest deliberation and casts the sole "Not Guilty" vote. The play examines not only the legal system - but also how groups of people argue back and forth to reach a consensus. Justice isn't always pretty.
Director Charles Kolmann rises to the challenge of putting 12 actors on the matchbox-sized Marco Players stage, moving them around, keeping sight lines open and - most of all - keeping the audience interested in what's basically a two-hour yak-fest.
Kolmann's blocking (positioning the actors on the stage) is exceptional. One long jury table fits diagonally along the stage, with eight actors wedged shoulder-to-shoulder along one side and at the corners facing the audience. We only have to stare at three or four backs through the entire night - and those performers are constantly on the rove - grabbing a drink of water, stretching their legs or catching a breath of fresh air from the window.
Working with a crew of amateurs, including a handful of first-timers, Kolmann gets a brisk evening with hints of a taut, boiler-room drama. Unfortunately, much of the show's action looks and feels overtly choreographed, at least in these early days. There's a mechanical precision to almost everything on stage - sit, stand, move, speak, light cigarette, wipe glasses, scribble on pad - that illustrates just how difficult it is to truly "act natural." This effect tends to flatten the show, while as the dialogue should dictate a rising tension; even the vote counting can feel anti-climactic.
Don Manley turns in an exceptionally controlled, yet confrontational performance as Juror #8. Manley forces home points about pieces of evidence with cool logic in the face of fiery rhetoric. His low, calm monotone serves as a contrast to the rest of the jury's angry yelping. Watching him puzzle out the case's inconsistencies makes for fascinating drama.
Opposite him, Jim Corsica rages as feisty Juror #3 - a man who resists all logic because of a broken relationship with his own son. Corsica makes the ranting look natural even while trying to seduce (or steamroll, if you please) other jurors into seeing his version of "justice."
Elsewhere, Kip Jones brings a patrician tilt and his stentorian voice to the business-like Juror #4. He's the grown-up in the room - and Jones makes the role look easy - even as his character fights his own doubts. Sean O'Shea shines as the tough Juror #5.
Jim Swanker's set allows for the huge jury table and multiple chairs, plus a well-used water cooler. Blandness offers the perfect backdrop for the intense action. I do wish Kolmann had used the large blackboard at stage rear to illustrate at least some of the deliberations or to note the various jury votes - if only to provide more sense of movement in the play.
While the jurors are nameless, they do have back stories and personalities. Angela Hinton's delightful costumes hint at these. Carole Musgrave's advertising executive (#12) gets a natty skirt and delightful hat, plus an elegant cigarette holder (watch her twirl it). Evelyn Kasper's lower-class immigrant seamstress (#11) gets a rumpled flower print, while Lou Wolfenson's loud-mouth (#7) gets a pastel leisure suit.
"Twelve Angry Jurors" delivers on its promise of a tight, visceral evening that takes the audience inside the jury room. Follow the polished prose as the show winds through the twists, turns and questions of a thrilling "guilty-not guilty" night.