12 Angry Men – still relevant after 50 years

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imageJan and I went downtown yesterday to take in a performance of “12 Angry Men” at the Princess of Wales theatre. We stayed at the Hilton on Richmond and had a great dinner at Tundra restaurant in the hotel.

12 Angry Men was originally produced for television in 1954 but is best remembered from the movie that was produced by Sidney Lumet and released in 1957.  The story covers the deliberations of a jury of 12 men who try to determine the fate of a young man accused of murdering his father.  The entire performance takes place in a hot New York jury room.

Notables in the film version are Henry Fonda as Juror 8 who is the only one who to vote not guilty in the initial vote, Ed Begley as Juror 10, a bigot and loudmouth and Lee J. Cobb as Juror 3.  Other notables included : Martin Balsam, E.G. Marshall, Jack Klugman and Jack Warden.

Fast forward to 2008.  Henry Fonda’s part has been taken by Richard Thomas, best remembered as John Boy on “The Waltons”. As part of a superb ensemble cast, Thomas comes across as a man prepared to stand up to the rest of the jury because he doesn’t think the young man received fair representation.  Too many questions were not asked and Juror 8 cannot take the quick way out by voting guilty with the other 11.  Kevin Dobson, probably best known as Telly Savalas’ sidekick on the TV show “Kojak”, takes the role of Juror 10.  His racist rant about “those people” unfortunately rings just as true today as it did in the 50’s.  Julian Gamble steals the show with his portrayal of Juror 3, a blowhard who’s relationship with his son brings too much baggage to the proceedings.

It’s been years since we’ve been to live theatre and I’d forgotten how powerful it can be.  12 Angry Men is as timely as ever and this production is not to be missed.