Sometimes, in the theater, a chestnut is a chestnut for a reason — it still works.
Such is the case with Reginald Rose’s iconic 1954 “Twelve Angry Men.” His stirring ode to the humane beauty of “reasonable doubt” in the jury room is being revived with gusto, if uneven polish, by Keegan Theatre through March 25. The play, with all its juicy roles and fiery speeches, must inspire the ensemble-based Keeganites, as they also did it in 2000.Keegan’s solid rendering does the play more than enough justice to make a trip to see it worthwhile. And if you’ve never seen “Twelve Angry Men,” not even the 1957 film with Henry Fonda, by all means experience Keegan’s production. They do it in-period. The jurors are all male and white. None of that PC “Twelve Angry Jurors” stuff.
Under Christopher Gallu’s solid direction, the actors chomp down hard on the script and never let go.”
It’s a steaming hot afternoon in New York City. The 12 jurors tromp into the theater and down the center aisle onto the stage — their jury room — to vote on whether a young minority “kid” fatally stabbed his father and deserves the death penalty. Rose availed himself of many archetypes for his jury: the ignorant, blustering bigot (producing artistic director Mark A. Rhea); the quiet immigrant (Mike Kozemchak); the prosperous businessman (Kevin Adams); the gruff bully (David Jourdan); the timid old man (Richard Jamborsky); and Juror No. 8 (Colin Smith), a thoughtful fellow who has qualms about sending a young man to the electric chair on the evidence they’ve heard.
There are…several other more theatrically juicy turns. Kozemchak’s immigrant, still in awe of democracy in action, is one. Also painting vivid portraits are Adams’s executive, who keeps a level head and an open mind; Andres Talero’s nervous young fellow who, like the defendant, grew up in the slums; Timothy H. Lynch’s straightbacked jury foreman, the embodiment of dignity and occasional pique; Jon Townson’s advertising guy, who always sounds as if he’s doing a presentation for a client.