*Sheldon Epps has done it again.
The Artistic Director of the Pasadena Playhouse has taken on an American classic and stylized it to emit a refreshing element of grit, honesty and unbridled frustration that reeks and oozes from the 12 Angry Men originally captured by the late Reginald Rose, as he wrote about a nondescript jury room in a 1955 courthouse where twelve men must deliberate and deliver a unanimous verdict that seals the fate of a young man who was on trial for the murder of his father.
The plot thickens with hearts that beat, bleed and mourn their own plight as much as the unseen defendant, whose life is now in the hands of these dozen men. The cause of justice is championed at first by the lone juror number eight, played by Jason George (Grey’s Anatomy. Eli Stone, Eve). Punctuating the dramatic escapades are predictable outbursts by the jaded tirades of Barry Pearl’s juror seven; which are juxtaposed by the reasonable juror number six, played by Ellis E. Williams. Meanwhile, Jeff Williams gives a stellar portrayal of the fidgety juror number two, who reveals multiple layers of complexities as the case unravels. Meanwhile the eldest juror number nine, Adolphus Ward, is riveting each time he stills the room, speaking with the wisdom of a sage. The ensemble cast navigates through Epps’ choreographed dramatic tensions, providing the dozen skilled dramatists ample room to overlap, unfold, and eventually explode. The ire of juror three is played by Gregory
North. The fury of juror four is played by Robert Picardo, and the unapologetic bias of juror ten is bitterly bestowed upon the audience by Bradford Tatum. Sheldon Epps’ 12 Angry Men is highly recommended, but only for theatergoers who can experience it organically, and not belabored by the essence of previous productions. Although it is no small feat to take on a classic that has been enshrined in the American theatrical world as a dramatic work of art, as well as a pastiche of our criminal justice system.
This production also displays fine performances by Scott Lowell as the foreman, Barry Pearl as juror seven, Jacques C. Smith as juror five, Adam L. Smith as juror twelve, and Clinton Derricks-Carroll as juror eleven. Derricks-Carroll’s, and his equally talented twin brother Cleavant, have been stable talents on stage and screen for years. Derrick’s god mother, the late legendary Vinette Carroll, laid the foundation as an actress, a playwright, and the first African American woman to direct on Broadway. Director Sheldon Epps sits firmly upon the shoulders of such greatness and brings his own sense of artistry and machismo to the current production of 12 Angry Men.
Elizabeth Doran is Executive Director of The Pasadena Playhouse. She and her dedicated team proudly present 12 Angry Men, as the second production in the 2013-2014 season. 12 Angry Men is now showing through December 1, 2013. For tickets, show times and more information visit Pasadena Playhouse.org.