BY JENNIFFER WARDELL
Clipper Staff Writer
CENTERVILLE — Stories change when you add the human dimension.
CenterPoint Legacy Theatre’s “12 Angry Jurors,” running now through July 6, is a gender-mixed retelling of the classic teleplay “12 Angry Men.” Though the script shows hints of creakiness, the cast gives the story a rich complexity while bringing out surprising moments of humor.
For those not familiar with the original, “12 Angry Jurors” follows the jury in a murder trial as they make their decision. Though the defendant is facing the death penalty, the case initially seems open and shut. One stubborn juror, however, doesn’t feel they should make a decision so quickly and votes in the opposite direction. As facts are revisited, arguments challenged and tempers flare, the 12 people come to their own decision about what exactly constitutes “reasonable doubt.”
I first read the play in high school, around the same time as I saw the well-known Henry Fonda adaptation. I loved its idealism, the way it championed standing up for your convictions and suggested that one person could really change the world.
Given all this, I was profoundly surprised to find myself immediately dismissive of this noble juror in the early moments of this CenterPoint production. Michelle Robbins plays the woman, who is only ever known as Juror 8, as a calm, no-nonsense woman without any kind of righteous agenda. She’s quietly, stubbornly insistent rather than passionate, and it gives the play a compelling realism. There are no heroes or villains in this jury room, just humans with a complex mix of wants and agendas.
This is even true of Juror 3, who usually comes off as the show’s designated villain. Actor Brian Hahn does an excellent job bringing out the sadness beneath the character’s overwhelming anger, giving him a depth other productions don’t always manage. His final scene was heartbreaking, a perfect culmination of everything we’ve seen the character go through up to that point.
The entire cast managed to add nuances to their characters, giving the occasionally preachy and simplistic dialogue a needed complexity.
With the help of director Karen Whiting, they also managed to add a surprising amount of humor. I don’t remember “12 Angry Men” making me even chuckle, but there were several moments in “12 Angry Jurors” where I laughed out loud. The best moments came from the excellent comic timing of Marilyn Gallaway as Juror 2, with an honorable mention going to Todd Wente as the guard.
For tickets and more information, call 801-298-1302.