Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Twelve Angry Men - Reginald Rose

This appears to be the first play I have reviewed for my blog...I don't often read plays because I find it difficult to keep all the characters straight, and I find that my interpretation of how to read the lines never makes the play as funny or poignant as the performance on the stage.  That being said, being able to take the time to read and re-read lines and passages sometimes (often in the case of Shakespeare) makes me better understand what the characters are trying to do.  Twelve Angry Men is not a complicated play at all, but the characters are referred to by their Juror numbers, not by their names, so I did have to pay particular attention to keep them straight.  The basic plot of this famous story is that 12 jurors have just sat through the trial of a 16-year old boy accused of stabbing his own father to death.  The boy faces a mandatory death sentence and the jurors are deliberating his fate.  The initial vote is 11-1 in favor of a conviction, and the rest of the play features the lone hold-out positing reasonable doubt in various aspects of the trial - from the boy's alibi to the eyewitnesses to the uniqueness of the weapon.  While frustrating at time - particularly given the lack of seriousness with which some of the jurors take their jobs (one guy just wants to get out to see the baseball game) - it is a fascinating play by play of the problems with our so-called justice system and with evidence and burdens of proof.  I like this play for anyone who thinks criminal cases are cut-and-dry - or that a single person doesn't have the power to persuade many.  I first read this play back in high school when I wrote a paper for my Civics class on the right to a jury trial.  I don't think the possible death sentence ever played into my observations about the play.  Now given the work that I do, the play has taken on more complex meaning for me, and it was definitely an interesting read - very impressive that so many ideas could be crammed into so few pages. 

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