In this tight little jewelbox of a play which Keegan Theatre has honed to exquisite perfection, Reginald Rose takes us into the confines of a jury room, to watch twelve men thrash out the guilt or innocence of a nineteen-year-old accused of stabbing his father to death. They are not twelve good men and true but twelve hot and tired men, eager to be done with jury service and back to their jobs, families and entertainments. The evidence, superficially but clearly, indicates that the defendant is guilty and eleven jurors vote that way. Only Juror No. 8 (Colin Smith) is a holdout.
Gradually he circles through the evidence, discovering his misgivings and illuminating them for the others. In so doing, he faces four vociferous and dangerous antagonists – Juror No. 7 (Michael Innocenti), who wants to convict in time to get to his ball game; Juror No. 10 (Mark A. Rhea), a fulminating bigot whose smug assumptions about the defendant’s racial or ethnic group determined his vote before the evidence was heard; Juror No. 3 (David Jourdan), who has invested the defense of his entire social order in the defendants’ conviction; and, most toxically, Juror No. 4 (Kevin Adams), a reasonable, dignified, intelligent man whose confidence in his own conclusions is so majestic that it does not admit of reconsideration.
Pop-eyed, red faced and so agonized that he appears to be a walking cramp, Jourdan’s No. 3 seems like a distillation of every impulse to act without reflection.”
Let me cite one final example: Juror No. 9 (Richard Jamborsky) is an older man who radiates wisdom and a judicious calm in the face of rage and panic. Jamborsky is so authentic in the role that he reminds me of a well-known judge…wait a minute! I remember who! He reminds me of Richard Jamborsky, the former Chief Judge of the Fairfax County Circuit Court who won an award for his reforms to the criminal justice system from the County Commission on Human Rights and who turned to acting after retirement!
Brothers and sisters, when real life can seamlessly and with authenticity translate to the stage, that’s good theater.