Cast shines in ‘Twelve Angry Jurors’
“Justice delivered without dispassion is always in danger of not being justice.” I was reminded of this quote from “The Hateful Eight” (2015) throughout the Hillel Theater Group’s performance of Sherman Segel’s adaptation of “12 Angry Men,” titled “12 Angry Jurors.” In this story, penned by Reginald Rose, jurors must decide whether to send a suspected 19-year-old to the electric chair for the alleged murder of his father. They must put aside their prejudice against reisdents of New York slums and their disdain for the lengthy and repetitive legal system.
Directed by Rafi Diamond ’18, the play itself did justice to its source material. Technical liberties with creative lighting queues and costume designs added character to each juror and the scenes their actors dominated, coordinated by Rachel Haskins ’17 and Becca Rogers ’19. Though the set was faithful to the script, the nature of the stage left almost half of the cast’s backs to the audience, leaving their voices muffled and distant. Although the directors tried to solve this problem by having the characters get up and move around the table as they monologued, it was somewhat dizzying and unnecessary. The use of two tables across from each other, rather than one central table, might have been an easier endeavor that also proved more effective.
Some may think this script is all about the case itself and the laudable legal process that delivers justice to those who are deserving of it; however, to me, this play is about the people. This cast performed without skipping a beat. They stayed true to their personas, some cynical, some innocent, some passionate. The scene stealer, in my opinion, was Juror 3, portrayed by Remony Perlman ’19. Playing the vehement parent of an abused runaway who couldn’t help but transfer her feelings to the case’s defendant, Perlman showed the audience she wasn’t afraid to yell at and bully each fellow juror to her side.
At the opposite end of her moral compass was Ben Winick’s ’17 Juror 8. Among the angry jury members, Juror 8 embodies the necessary dispassion and must perform the arduous task of convincing 11 other stubborn peers. Whether they were keeping their composure when they needed to or yelling at the top of their lungs to accuse Perlman’s character of sadism, the aura of justice and honor revolved around them alongside the men and women they persuaded to review the facts — although their performance was a tad dramatic for a character representing neutrality and dispassion. The responsibility of keeping the group civilized fell onto Marek Harr’s (’20) capable shoulders as Juror 4. His objectivity maintained the group’s civility, acting as a judge in the deliberation.
The rest of the cast all successfully contributed to the realistic atmosphere of a jury room. As someone who has served as a juror before, I witnessed accurate portrayals of frustrated men and women who could not get along. Sindy Sura ’19 kept the room from tearing itself apart as the foreman, maintaining order from descending to an ethical grey area. Julia Sirota ’18 played Juror 2, an innocent woman sustaining an aura of enthusiasm and positivity. Christine Kim ’17 provided much-needed perspective and sympathy as Juror 5, doing so with convincing empathy and experience. The rest of the jurors, portrayed by Shira Rosenberg ’20, Yuni Hahn ’19 and Shoshi Finkel ’20, were subtle contributions that added to the tension and realism of the scene.
Going into the play, I sincerely hoped Jurors 10 and 11 would stay true to their characters. Played by Sivan Spector ’18 and Tafara Gava ’20 respectively, the two exceeded expectations and reignited the essence of justice. Constantly at odds with each other, one playing the prejudiced cretin who takes her citizenship for granted and the other taking pride in what it represents as an immigrant, the two fit perfectly with the rest of the crowd. Maybe it’s the negative political climate we are all wallowing in, but I couldn’t help compare them to our current state of democracy. Diamond successfully pulled everyone together as director to deliver a story that faithfully parallels the tone of the original. “12 Angry Men” (1957) is one of my favorite movies of all time, and I went in spoiled by the skill of Henry Fonda and director Sidney Lumet, yet I was met with accurate and honest portrayals and a faithful adaptation.
—Editor’s note: Sabrina Sung ’18, who assistant directed the play, is the copy editor for the Justice.