Great writing can endure across decades and centuries, reminding us of the profundity of the human condition.
Reginald Rose’s “Twelve Angry Men” is a perfect case in point: A dozen men sit in a room discussing the pros and cons of the murder case they saw unfold in court over three days.
The play uses a single set, no special or technical effects, and no bells and whistles – just the pure drama of 12 citizens struggling to do what each believes is the right thing.
Rose’s 1954 teleplay was inspired by his own stint as a juror in Lower Manhattan’s Foley Square courthouse earlier that year. He adapted it for the 1957 film, co-producing with star Henry Fonda, later rewriting it for the stage multiple times.
Despite his long career spanning theater, film and television, the prolific Rose’s reputation rests with this one great work.
Juror No. 8 (Seamus Deaver, center), leaning for acquittal, calls for a vote. Still uncertain are Juror Nos. 11 (David Nevell, left), 12 (Erik Odom), 1 (Matthew Henerson) and 2 (Mueen Jahan), with Nos. 3 (Richard Burgi), 10 (John Collela, standing) and 4 (Rick Cosnett) convinced the defendant is guilty. (Photo by Ed Krieger)
Opposites in almost every possible way are the truculent, ill-tempered Juror No. 3, played in Laguna by Richard Burgi, left, and calm and rational yet compassionate Juror No. 8, portrayed by Seamus Deaver. (Photo by Ed Krieger)
Jurors from all walks of life deliberate on a case of first-degree murder. From left: Richard Burgi (standing) as belligerent Juror No. 3, Rick Cosnett as fastidious No. 4, Dennis Renard as slum-bred No. 5, Tony Sancho as hot-headed No. 6, John Massey as obnoxious sports fan No. 7, Seamus Deaver as compassionate No. 8, Andrew Barnicle as elderly No. 9, John Collela as openly bigoted No. 10 and David Nevell as No. 11, a European immigrant. (Photo by Ed Krieger)
In one of the play’s most charged moments, Juror No. 3 (Richard Burgi, left) demonstrates how a man could fatally stab a…