Thursday, October 30, 2003
"Twelve Angry Jurors" looks challenging before the actors even take their places -- just one long conference table in the middle of the room and 12 empty chairs.
The stage is set in the center of the baggage room at the Depot ArtCenter, surrounded on all sides by the audience in the performing style known as theater-in-the-round.
Steamboat Community Players recently gave up the performance space at the Seventh Street Playhouse, and the troupe's newest production is being staged at the Depot Art Center until permanent space is ready at Colorado Mountain College.
"The challenge with theater-in-the-round is that actors have to constantly be moving -- without appearing to be moving -- to keep from turning their backs on the audience," said director Rusty Galusha. "This might be the most difficult play the Steamboat Community Players have done because of the new media (theatre-in-the-round) and the fact that we have to keep the audience's attention for an hour and a half with no action. Just talk."
"Twelve Angry Jurors" (more often staged as "12 Angry Men") takes place in New York City in the 1950s on a hot summer day in July. The jurors enter the first act after listening to 12 hours of testimony in the adjoining courtroom.
"They are hot and grumpy and trying to decide whether they should convict a teenage boy in the stabbing death of his father," Galusha said. "Eventually, they start to get on each other's nerves."
The three acts take place around a conference table.
Because the play involves very little plot and even less action, the play really is a character study of what happens when 12 strangers are put in a room together under stressful conditions.
Galusha compares the play, written in 1955 by American playwright Reginald Rose, to the work of Anton Chekhov.
Chekhov allowed his characters to slowly reveal themselves through dialogue. His outlook on humanity tended to be dreary.
Rose's characters reveal themselves in a similar way.
Seth Bograd plays Juror No. 8 -- the antagonist.
"At the beginning of the show, (Juror No. 8) is the only one who has doubt," Bograd said. "He is the truth-seeker. He wants to make sure that justice is done.
"When the jury walked into the deliberation room, they were ready to vote and get it over with. The first ballots come in and they are baffled."
Throughout the play, Bograd's character goes over the major points of the trial and pokes holes in them.
In the end, only Juror No. 3, played by Cesare Rosati, holds out for "guilty."
"He basically comes to the trial with a lot of baggage from his family," Rosati said. "He has been fighting with his son. He looks for any reason to find the kid guilty."
Rosati said he is the one who really pushed for this play.
"I have always wanted to do this," he said. "It's such a commentary on the social structure of the 1950s. The politics and biases of the time play themselves out in front of you."