To acquire wisdom, one must observe

‘12 Angry Jurors’ pays attention to the fine details

Twelve chairs, a table and a cracked window. That’s all there is to the set of this weekend’s performance to watch: “12 Angry Jurors,” directed by Rafi Diamond ’18 and presented by the Hillel Theater Group. This calculated, fast-paced drama questions the value we assign to justice if we truly wish to see it prevail, relying on 12 distinct (and, for the most part, angry) individuals to experiment with this topic as we sit, watch and decide for ourselves. As the jurors themselves are assigned to present a verdict among persistent dissent, we as an audience are tasked with unraveling our own prejudices, beliefs and doubts.

It is a story you may be already familiar with: 12 jurors are sent into a hot, stuffy room to deliberate on the guilt of a boy who is obviously in the wrong—to 11 members of the jury, at least. However, the one dissenter, Juror 8 (Ben Winick ’17), undertakes the task of convincing 11 jurors that there is enough reasonable doubt in the convictions made against the defendant to avoid possibly sending an innocent boy to his undeserved death. Juror 8 must struggle through the arguments of his colleagues, offering up questions that shine a light on uncertainty and raise the tensions in the room.

Perhaps it’s the election on my mind, but this show seemed to raise concerns and issues surfaced in the recent political climate, especially those related to bigotry, hate and anger. Juror 3 (Remony Pearlman ’19) and Juror 10 (Sivan Spector ’18) embodied these attributes, filling the cramped, boiling room with exclamations of abuse, racism and violence that seemed to choke out the level-headed voices of other jurors trying to pursue justice. This effect was intensified by the lighting (designed by Rachel Haskins ’17), which cloaked the room in a red fury or a sickly green during these outbursts. However unsettling these scenes might be, it is interesting to observe how individuals take on and nurture these prejudices and hateful practices, and is especially helpful in approaching and tackling prejudice when we encounter it.

What was distinctly impressive about the show was its attention to detail. The play is grounded and takes place exclusively in a crowded deliberation room at a long table. As a result, much more attention is given to details; things like Juror 7’s (Yuni Hahn ’19) relentless gum-smacking, or Juror 3’s exaggerated eye-rolls. Especially with a relatively large cast of 12 jurors, this task is a hefty one, but Diamond and his cast did not fail to fine-tune even the smallest of idiosyncrasies. Each character is starkly different from the next, whether in movement, speech, sense and even style (with credit due to costume designer Becca Rogers ’19). Although only a handful of the 12 jurors have lengthy speaking parts, each character in the play is commendably responsible for fully embodying their characters, down to even the most seemingly insignificant of gestures or mannerisms. That in itself is a sign of both superb directing and highly concentrated acting.

The deliberation room is the last place we might think of when we consider scenes of suspense, rage and violence, but this play asserts its livelihood in spite of our preconceptions of intense action. While larger, more action-heavy productions often have less trouble inspiring feelings of suspense and anxiety, it is always amazing to see this complex, smaller-scale play perform the same effect with such humble means. With every glare, whisper, stomp and shout, the beating of our hearts escalates and the temperature of the room rises until tirades of fury are unleashed. It takes you aback, particularly because of the forcefulness of the characters, but also because you didn’t realize you’ve been holding your breath in anticipation. I guess it’s one of those things that you have to see to believe, and I am urging you to go see it this weekend.

Even though “12 Angry Jurors” is a play that many of us have read or experienced in one way or another, the execution of this show still sent chills up my arms and knotted my gut in tension and suspense. But to name just one soul for this thrill of a viewing would be unfair to the rest. Reginald Rose’s work is genius and absorbing, but Diamond’s direction truly enhances its brilliance. The cast is absolutely remarkable, especially Yuni Hahn ’19, Tafara Gava ’20 and Julia Sirota ’18; and the production staff packaged everything together beautifully. “12 Angry Jurors” will be performed in Shiffman 219 this Friday through Sunday, Nov. 11-13 at 8 p.m., with a Sunday matinee at 2 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at the SCC ticket booth. This is a show you don’t want to miss, so buy a ticket and go!

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