Wilson Players’ “Twelve Angry Jurors” exceeds expectations

Grace Kowal

A 16-year-old lower-class boy is being tried for the murder of his abusive father. Twelve jurors of different backgrounds and personalities are charged with deciding whether he is guilty. Initially, all reasonable evidence pointed to the boy as the murderer, and almost every juror was ready to convict him. However, one juror forces the rest to discuss the trial further, and as evidence is examined further, more reasonable doubt arises. Racist, classist, and personal prejudices against the boy become clear roots of many jurors opinions, providing a deeper commentary on the criminal justice system and society.

I expected watching twelve people sit in a room and debate for 90 minutes to be dull, at least at some points. But Wilson plays have always exceeded expectations, and “12 Angry Jurors” was no exception. From the minute the twelve actors and actresses walked in, a dynamic, charged atmosphere was created. Each had embodied a character, and committed to it. Even when there was no dialogue, characters communicated tension through body language and facial expression. One of the best examples of the skill of the actors was how they reacted to the tension in the decision room. While the black box itself was at a normal room temperature, one key contributor to tension between the jurors was the supposed heat and stuffiness of the room they stayed in. Between Juror 5, played by Diego Ortiz, tugging on his shirt collar, Juror 12, Julia Ravenscroft, frequently fanning herself, and Juror 7, Aaron Bridgeman’s constant complaints, I started to believe the heat so much I could feel it myself.  

Thanks to great writing and acting, I continued to be entertained for the entirety of the play. Furthermore, “12 Angry Jurors” spoke to a wide array of emotions in the audience, and despite dramatic undertones, it generated frequent laughter through snide remarks. “12 Angry Jurors” also provided clear commentary on how strongly the prejudice of some can ruin the lives of others, which is still far too applicable to current day, despite the play being set decades ago. The best example of this is the frighteningly believable depiction of classist and implied racist beliefs by Layla Behbehani,  Juror 10. When she is among the last left believing the boy is guilty, and forced to defend herself, she falls back on her prejudice, leading to a tangent of blatant classism that left me shocked. Her rant about the “violent animals” living in slums was very reminiscent of modern day blatant racism we see when some Americans are interviewed on the news, and asked why they oppose undocumented immigrants so strongly.

The deeper meaning behind “12 Angry Jurors,” which could be interpreted in ways other than my own, was made so powerful due to strong acting and profound writing. This was one of my favorite Wilson plays I’ve seen, and my only critique—and I’m grasping at straws here—is that some time between dialogue was a little cheesy. But all the staring out of windows did add the desired dramatic effect, and I left the black box with a 9.5/10 rating in my head.