Review: 12 ANGRY MEN (Hamilton Family Theatre Cambridge (Cambridge, Ont)

by Lynn on August 15, 2019

in The Passionate Playgoer

At the Hamilton Family Theatre Cambridge, Cambridge, Ont.

Written by Reginald Rose

Directed by Marti Maraden

Set by Allan Wilbee

Costumes by Jennifer Wonnacott

Lighting by Louise Guinand

Cast: Neil Barclay

Benedict Campbell

J. Sean Elliott

Kevin Kruchkywich

Jeffrey Wetsch

Terry Barna

Keith Dinicol

Omar Forrest

Cyrus Lane

Skye Brandon

Thomas Duplessie

Jacob James

Brad Rudy

The Honourable Mr. Justice Patrick J. Flynn is the voice of the Judge.

Reginald Rose’s bracing 1954 jury-room drama is being given a splendid, gripping, moving production thanks to director Marti Maraden and her wonderful cast.

The Story.  Manhattan, 1957. A jury of 12 white men deliberates in the jury-room over the fate of a teenage boy accused of murdering his father. Most of the jurors are sure the kid did it. One lone man is not sure. He has reasonable doubt. The story involves him arguing with and questioning the other jury-members until they change their minds. It’s rough going along the way, but justice prevails.

The Production.  The curtain is up on Allan Wilbee’s set of the wood-panelled jury room with a long wood table and chairs for twelve. There are other chairs around the room with a bank of windows stage left. Stage right is a wall on the other side of which is the bathroom. When there are scenes in the bathroom the wall recedes revealing the sink and a door to the cubicle and the space of the bathroom. There is a door slightly up left that leads out of the jury room. There is a clock stage right, on the wall that works and shows that time is ticking away as they deliberate.

We hear the voice of the judge give the instructions to the jury. It’s the voice of The Honourable Mr. Justice Patrick J. Flynn of the Superior Court of Justice, Central South Region-Waterloo Regional Municipality. I thought having the Honourable Mr. Justice Patrick J. Flynn give the instructions (we never see him, we only hear him), was masterful. It lends a note of solemnity and seriousness. I’m assuming this was a decision of director Marti Maraden. Terrific work here.

The guard (Omar Forrest), the only black character in the play, leads the jury into the jury room. Do I detect a look of suspicion from him to them and then from them to him? My imagination? Not sure.

The men are in suits and ties. Many wear hats. They put their hats on a shelf up stage where they can also hang their jackets. Juror #1 (Jacob James) is the foreman and tries to organize the group so they can get down to business and discuss the case. Jacob James plays Juror #1 with as much authority one can muster when the others either bully or shout him down. Lots of dignity with Mr. James.

The battle lines are quickly drawn. The loudmouth, racist bully Juror # 10 (a ranting Brad Rudy) knows the kid is guilty and assumes the others do too. He lumps the teen into the group of “they” and “them” who are low-lifes, liars and cheats.

Juror #3 (a gripping, incendiary Benedict Campbell) has had a troubled relationship with his own son from whom he is estranged. He felt his son was disrespectful to him even though he beat him up for walking away from a fight. The son retaliated when he was 16 and left. Juror #3 has misplaced his anger from his son onto this teenaged young man on trial. He believes the teen is guilty because he wants to get even with him as a vicarious way of getting back at his son. Campbell gives an explosive, fearless yet heartbreaking performance.

There are the more reasoned jurors: Juror #11 (Neil Barclay) a courtly, fastidious German gentleman who knows the tyranny of the bully and the loudmouth; Juror #9 (a thoughtful Keith Dinicol) is an old man who is meek but not a pushover. He stands his ground with sound reasoning and thoughtful questions; Juror #2 (a wonderful Cyrus Lane) is browbeaten and seems easily cowed by the louder jurors, but he eventually too stands his ground. And then there is Juror #8 (Skye Brandon) who just doesn’t know if the teen is guilty or not. There is so much that does not make sense in the case. He has questions and asks them of his fellow jurors. Many are exasperated with him because he is holding them up from going home or to a ball game. Skye Brandon as Juror #8 is calm, conflicted and so unsure of the truth, but knows that he can’t throw this kid away. Slowly Brandon carefully, respectfully changes the mind of the skeptics. It’s a lovely, strong, compelling performance because it’s so quiet.

Director Mari Maraden has staged this group of men so that they are almost always moving, either in their chairs or up from the table, away from it, to a window, back to the table and it is all effortless and natural. The relationships are also clearly, carefully defined and established. And with her gifted cast she has conveyed the urgency of the life and death debate so that by the end of the play no one takes it for granted.

Comment. Playwright Reginald Rose has created a microcosm of the world in his play 12 Angry Men. It has the loud-mouthed bully who wants to overpower the meek; the raging man with misplaced anger who can’t see his error; the easily bullied; the outsider with more grace and dignity than his tormentors; the quiet ones in the middle and the lone person who sees the problem of the mob rule and says that this is wrong and goes about changing it. Our present world is angry, hateful, racist and scared. 12 Angry Men is more important than ever in showing that can change when one person stands up and provides another way of thinking that is reasonable and just. Please see it. The production is terrific and important.

Drayton Entertainment presents:

Began: Aug. 7, 2019.

Closes: Aug. 24, 2019.

Running Time: approx. 2 hours 15 minutes.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Thomas Kay August 15, 2019 at 10:40 am


Saw this production on Tuesday and couldn’t agree with you more.
People all around me were talking about how relevant this play is today with all the hate and racism that is going on south of the border. This work is as relevant today as when it was written in 1954.


2 Margaret Riggin August 16, 2019 at 10:34 am

I have seen this production twice (once in Grand Bend and once in Cambridge) and also couldn’t agree more with both of you. It’s current relevancy can’t be overemphasized. So much of the dialogue is all too familiar in our current world. This production deserves a much wider audience than will be able to see it in the remaining performances in Cambridge.