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Curtain Up: Nine Happy Neighbors Watch ‘Twelve Angry Men’

By: Christopher Trela
Attending a play or concert with a friend is always fun, but what happens when you get nine neighbors
together and make a group trip to Laguna Playhouse to watch a weekend matinee performance of “Twelve
Angry Men?”
Last Saturday, nine neighbors (including me) who frequently meet with our dogs at a local park left our
pooches at home and made the trek to Laguna Beach to enjoy a production of the classic 1954 play
“Twelve Angry Men,” a courtroom drama written by playwright Reginald Rose in which a dozen jurors
decide the fate of a young man accused of murder. What will the verdict be?
This suspenseful (and occasionally funny)
thriller pits passionate jurors against one another
in a surprisingly timely examination of the
American justice system while exploring
personal prejudices that society still grapples
with today.
Rose wrote “Twelve Angry Men” after his stint
on jury duty in New York. His well-written play
obviously struck a nerve: he won an Emmy
Award for the TV version of “Twelve Angry
Men,” and received an Academy Award
nomination for the 1957 film version starring
Henry Fonda.
The Laguna Playhouse production, which runs through Oct. 22, features 12 actors who have a variety of
TV, stage and film work in their thespian hats, experience that lends itself well to the challenges of a
single-set drama that was penned more than 60 years ago.
It was with great anticipation that we nine theater lovers took our seats as the lights dimmed. We were not
disappointed—in fact, you could say we were thrilled by the production, which runs 100 minutes with no
intermission so the tension remains high the entire time.
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We, and the rest of the nearly sold-out audience, gave the
performance a hearty standing ovation at its conclusion.
We strolled downtown to The Lumberyard Restaurant to grab
dinner and discuss the play. We agreed that it was a fabulous
production, mainly because the actors created convincing
characters and the play built in suspense minute by minute.
“I thought the actors came alive as real people—very believable,” stated Pam Logan, while her husband
Peter noted that “the play had the intensity needed to do the old classic justice. I was pleased with the
diversity of the cast and the high level of experienced actors they chose. Well done!”
“We sat spellbound from beginning until end,” added Don Wittenberg. “Each member of the cast WAS the
character, displaying his courage, prejudices or inner demons. The play is so well written with key
evidence revealed gradually and then argued. Magnificent!”
We also agreed that the themes of racial intolerance and bigotry that crept into the play are (unfortunately)
as timely now as they were in the 1950s.
Lumberyard was also a hit. We ordered the famous Planks (deep fried zucchini) to start, then a variety of
salads, burgers, meatloaf and ahi tuna sandwiches. The portions are so generous at Lumberyard that
several people in our group asked for doggie bags (which means our spoiled dogs got even more spoiled
that night).
By the way, the cast of “Twelve Angry Men” features former
Laguna Playhouse artistic director Andy Barnicle convincingly
playing the role of an elderly juror, Daniel Berlin (“Hairspray,”
Laguna Playhouse), Richard Burgi (“The Sentinel,” “Desperate
Housewives”), John Colella (“Revolver” at Celebration
Theatre, “Niagara Falls” at Theatre of NOTE), Rick Cosnett
(“The Flash”), Seamus Dever (“Castle”), Matthew Henerson
(“Ah, Wilderness” at A Noise Within), Mueen Jahan (“Bombay
Dreams” on Broadway), John Massey (“The Odd Couple” at Laguna Playhouse), David Nevell (“Peter
and the Starcatcher,” “Arms and the Man” at South Coast Rep), Erik Odom (“Twilight Saga: Breaking
Dawn – Part 2”), Dennis Renard (“Othello” and “Proof” at UCLA) and Tony Sancho (“Hephaistos” at the
Getty Villa).
Bravo to them all!