BY ED RAMPELLTWELVE ANGRY MEN Theater ReviewThe jury is not out and the verdict is in: Laguna Playhouse’s production of Reginald Rose’s TwelveAngry Men is “guilty” as charged of being an excellent, tautly written, directed and acted drama.Suggested by Rose’s own stint serving on a jury, Twelve goes behind the scenes to watch the jurydeliberations of a dozen men over what appears to be an open and shut homicide case in NewYawk City. They are in a rush to leave the sweltering jury room – as in Spike Lee’s Do the RightThing, also about racial injustice, it is literally the hottest day of the year – and the weary men wantto leave the courthouse, go home, to a Dodger game (in Brooklyn, not Chavez Ravine – this is a1950s period piece), etc.But with the death sentence hanging over the teenaged defendant – a minority (unspecied whichethnic group he belongs to in this production) – Juror # 8 (Seamus Dever) proves to be the loneholdout. An architect, the sole dissenting vote on the rst ballot, steps up and bravely holds forthin this gripping one-acter, as he strives to sway the other mostly eager-to-leave 11 jurors toconsider that there may be reasonable doubt. Will he prevail?Throughout the around 90 minute play, the jurors’ personal prejudices come to the fore – racism;bias against immigrants; father-son animus; a simple-minded love of baseball (John Massey’s drollJuror #7); and more. All this causes a majority of the jurors to have a presumption of guilt – insteadof innocence.Like Henry Fonda in the classic 1957 lm adaptation of what had originally been Rose’s EmmyAward winning teleplay on Studio One, Dever conveys Juror #8’s essential decency as he forcesmob justice to stand down and back down. Another standout in the superb cast is Richard Burgi,who portrayed the same enraged Juror #3 Lee J. Cobb had played opposite Fonda in the big screenversion.With its theme of guilt by innuendo and suspicion, the 1950s-set Twelve Angry Men can be viewedas a veiled critique of the then-prevailing Hollywood Blacklist and McCarthyism, which permeatedAmerica with an uneasy, widespread climate of distrust, paranoia and fear. If this reviewerremembers correctly, in the 1957 movie version the murder suspect is Hispanic, and as such thisevergreen drama takes on renewed meaning for the Trump era, as Latinos and other ethnic groupsare vilied and increasingly coming under attack.Scenic designer Stephen Gifford and costume designer Kate Bergh expertly transport us back intime to the 1950s – even if this story remains disturbingly fresh. Tightly directed by MichaelMatthews, Twelve is still a perfect dramatization of democracy, crackling with tension, relieved byoccasional humor. Entertainment at its best – Laguna Playhouse’s high octane production keepsyour butt on the edge of your seat and your mind fully engaged, in high gear. Beyond a reasonabledoubt, if ever a drama deserved to be held over, it’s this one.welve Angry Men is playing Wednesdays through Saturdays at 7:30 p.m., plus 2:00 p.m. onSaturdays and Sundays at 1:00 p.m. through Oct. 22, at the Laguna Playhouse, 606 LagunaCanyon Road, Laguna Beach, CA 92651. For more info: (949)497-2787;www.LagunaPlayhouse.com.Film historian/reviewer Ed Rampell is co-organizer of the Oct. 27 70 Anniversary Commemorationof the Hollywood Blacklist (see: https://www.generosity.com/fundraising/hollywood-blacklisttribute).Rampell is co-presenting V.I. Pudovkin’s documentary The End of St. Petersburg on Sunday, 4:00p.m., Oct. 29, 2017 at The L.A. Workers Center, 1251 S. St. Andrews Place, L.A., CA 90019. This is part ofthe ongoing “Ten Films That Shook the World” series celebrating the centennial of the Russian Revolution,taking place on the fourth Friday of each month through November. For info: email@example.com.