An inner-city teen’s life depends on twelve strangers unanimous decision to find him not guilty or guilty of murder- such is the story of “12 Angry Jurors,” Cypress College Theater’s newest play. The Cypress Theater program showcased their third showing of “12 Angry Jurors” on March 31st.
As the audience enters the theater, twelve chairs await the “12 Angry Jurors” in the jury room of a New York court on a very hot summer day.
With lights beaming bright on the audience, it too felt like we were sitting in that heated jurisdiction room, so much that many of us were fanning ourselves like the jurors, feeling the tension inherent in the scene.
Twelve Angry Jurors was inspired by Reginald Rose’s original script “Twelve Angry Men” which tells, “the story of human prejudice and its effects on the judicial process.” Director and Cypress College student, Natalie Wilson, decided to reinterpret the story so that it could include a luminous cast featuring both men and women- one that I think truly exemplified diversity.
The play began with Juror One (Foreperson), played by Annika Rosales, along with eleven others entering the jury deliberation room, all instructed by the police to vote unanimously on the guilt or innocence of a teenage minority who has been accused of murdering his father after a heated argument.
As most of us would when summoned for jury duty, many of the jurors grunted and went on tangents about how much of a nuisance this was to their everyday lives. For Juror Twelve, portrayed by Ryan Park, this was an inconvenience that was faltering his advertising business he cherished so much and loved boasting about- for Juror One, there was a family awaiting her return and home cooked meals. Each juror displayed a frustration, allowing the audience to connect to these jurors and put themselves into their shoes.
Juror Eight, played by Joshua Quarles, had considerable doubts on elements of the case after the trial.
While eleven out of twelve jurors all agreed to “unanimously” vote this teenage boy as guilty, Juror Eight decides to do the opposite. Juror Eight believes there has been fallacies many have not caught onto in the witness testimonies. When Juror Eight unfolds the flaws of each testament given, he had many of us following along and even giving our input as well, engaging us all with his determination to find this teenage boy not guilty.
Quarle’s character as Juror Eight shows the importance of leadership, personally reminding myself about the famous quote said by Alexander the Great, “I am not afraid of an army of lions led by a sheep; I am afraid of an army of sheep led by a lion” meaning that the best leaders are ones who do not fear making the difficult decisions and finding distinctive leadership approaches, like Quarle’s character embodied.
From each actors beautiful execution of their assigned role, to Ashley Marie Strain’s phenomenal job of designing the set, “12 Angry Jurors” was an experience that allowed the audience to take this journey with them and feel like they too could make their voices heard.