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BPA's ‘Twelve Angry Men’ wrestles with truth
Sitting in a room with 12 angry men might not sound like such a good idea, but watching the baker’s dozen in BPA’s fall production will have you riveted.
Based on the 1950’s-era drama “Twelve Angry Men” by Reginald Rose, the provocative play depicts the deliberations of a frustrated jury when one of the 12 dissents on a seemingly open-and-shut murder case. Several jurors are half-way out the door to deliver a guilty verdict for the Spanish-American teen who “allegedly” stabbed his father to death.
BPA-regular Chris Soldevilla plays “Juror No. 8,” who stuns (and irritates) the other jurors with his emphasis on adhering to the precept that a man is innocent until proven guilty “beyond the shadow of a doubt.”
“I think this piece is an exploration of how people come to agreement, how they work with and against each other,” said director Brian Danzig. “It’s about the tranformational power of reasoned discourse.”
Not all of the discourse is reasoned in this potent drama where tensions roil and subside, explode and crackle until you can hear a pin drop on the spare set. A custom-made table, wider on one side than the other, creates a forced-perspective that bolts the audience into the scene for the duration.
With recent cases such as Conrad Murray, Troy Anthony Davis and Casey Anthony, the play is as relevant today as it was in 1950. It asks more questions than it answers.
The script is so thought-provoking that Woodward Middle School teachers Keri Schmit and Carrie Newman show the film to their eighth-grade literature class, which also ties in with studies in history.
Danzig and David Cowan, Juror No. 2, made presentations to the eighth-grade class last week and led a discussion afterward. Danzig interviewed Cowan who responded in character.
“It was really engaging,” Newman said Wednesday. “The kids were so taken with that.”
They also discussed the challenges of staging a play where no one walks off the set, she said.
The play was proposed as a “passion project” by Arthur Mortell and Robert Craighead, Juror No. 7 and the foreman, respectively. They sought out sponsorships and made a proposal to BPA.
Casting capitalized on the island’s notable talent pool.
Soldevilla, a regular with the Improv troupe The EDGE, was drawn by the challenge of building such an interesting character after having sat on a jury recently.
“It’s hard,” Soldevilla said at BPA Tuesday night after rehearsal. “I don’t even know if I believe him. But I believe in the system.”
Soldevilla’s character pieces together scenarios that cast doubt in the minds of other jurors.
“It’s not so cut and dried,” he said.
Adapted by Sherman L. Seagel, the play features a powerhouse cast: Jim Anderson, Frank Buxton, Marc Cantwell, Bob Cederwall, David Cowan, Robert Craighead, Tim Davidson, Justin Lynn, Sam McJunkin, Arthur Mortell, Chris Soldevilla, Bob Tull and Peter Denis. Bob McAllister lends his voice as The Judge.
To learn more, visit www.bainbridgeperformingarts.org.
“Twelve Angry Men” appears at BPA one week only, Nov. 17 – 20, with shows at 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and at 3 p.m. Sunday. A special preview is at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 16.
The production is appropriate for all ages, but recommended for ages 12 and above.
Tickets are $20 for adults and $15 for seniors, students, youth, military and teachers, and may be purchased online at www.bainbridgeperformingarts.org, by phone at 842-8569 or in person at BPA, 200 Madison Ave.
Preview tickets Nov. 16: $10 suggested donation.