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12 Angry Men

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Essay title: 12 Angry Men

Though all 12 jurors are white men, they are a varied crew. They attempt to sit still around the heavy table at the centre of Allen Moyer's set, but in their passion keep leaping up to pace the room, mop their brows and peer out at an oppressively humid New York day. Relying on their analytic abilities - this is the 1950s, years before fancy forensics determined verdicts - they pore over the details of the case. If Rose's dialogue makes one wish occasionally for the more clipped speed of cop-show patter on today's TV, his story's construction is impeccable. This is thrilling drama.

Full Text (356 words)

(Copyright Financial Times Ltd. 2004. All rights reserved.)

Such is the intensity of America's presidential campaign that almost any play can seem loaded with topical meaning. With Reginald Rose's Twelve Angry Men, a Roundabout Theatre revival, the idea that in 90 minutes one man could persuade 11 fellow jurors, many of them at first dogmatic, of his views in a murder case seems fantastical. In an era of excruciating partisanship, such a faith in rhetoric, in the swaying power of evidence, appears antediluvian.

Yet such is the force of Scott Ellis's production that we not only accept such a situation but even, occasionally, are tempted to cheer it. There is something restorative about the triumph of decency, even though our faith in it may have evaporated by the time we step outside the theatre. As the initial dissenter in the case - which involves a 16-year-old who has allegedly knifed his father to death - Boyd Gaines, as Juror Number Eight, oozes forthrightness, and as usual the actor puts one in mind of Jimmy Stewart - which at least distracts us from comparing him with the role's movie interpreter, Henry Fonda.


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