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Theater Notes: A favorite movie becomes a favorite play

By Staff | Mar 2, 2016

If your tastes in movies and plays are anything like mine, one of your all time favorite movies has probably been “Twelve Angry Men.” Well lucky us, Florida Rep has brought us a truly superb production of the play version.

Right up front, having seen the movie, does not diminish the impact of seeing the play. You may know all the characters, and even anticipate some of the surprises, but for me, they were only enhanced by being in the audience to watch what was going on, right there in that courtroom on stage. The full reality of it was gripping.

Now, this was clearly helped by the fine cast they assembled. No, it wasn’t Henry Fonda and Lee J. Cobb, but the two men who played their roles on the Florida Rep stage did those fine actors justice. The rest of the 10, remarkably, were darn good too. There are some delightful Florida Rep ensemble members you might have seen in a variety of plays over the years. My kudos go to: Craig Bockhorn, Greg Longenhagen, William McNulty, Jason Parrish and Peter Thomasson. Guys you brought your uniqueness to what the play demanded of you, and oh the heat you raised. Congratulations.

I swear, when the intermission came, most of could hardly wait to get back into the play. Again, for those of us who know the movie, we mostly remembered the outcome. But, it is the process, the magical process of coming to a decision, that enthralled us.

In case you never saw the movie the play all takes place in a New York City jury room, where the jurors are dealing with a case of a 16-year-old boy who has been accused of killing his father. The 12 jurors have sat for three days in the courtroom hearing the witnesses and the arguments of the prosecuting and defense attorneys, and now they have to decide if the boy is guilty or not.

The intensity of the play, the spread of the jurors opinions, the back story on each of them, all in the hands of the brilliant playwright, Reginald Rose, makes for exciting drama. Exciting drama often confronts your own life. How would you have voted on the evidence before you? One man stands up out of the 12 jurors and says he still has a reasonable doubt that the boy is guilty. Eleven to one. Explosive responses from that point on are what make it such an outstanding piece of theater.

I urge you to go see “Twelve Angry Men.” I’m going to put it on my “Ten Best Plays of the Season.” The thundering standing ovation it received from the audience tells me it will be on their lists, too. Get your tickets fast. It only runs until March 2. Call that box office, (239) 332-4488. Tell them you saw this review. That will make me smile. Internet is www.floridarep.org. March 2 is coming fast. I predict a sell out.