By Sara Dudley Brown, Theatre Reviewer
The new production of Reginald Rose’s classic 1957 courtroom drama “Twelve Angry Men”, playing at Ford’s Theatre from now through February 17, 2019, is truly a “must see!” It features a marvelous cast including Erik King as the dissenting Juror 8, Bru Ajueyitsi, Christopher Bloch, Eric Hissom, Sean-Maurice Lynch, Brandon McCoy, Jason B. McIntosh, Lawrence Redmond, Michael Russotto, Bueka Uwemedimo, Craig Wallace, Elan Zafir and Paz López. It is very ably directed by Tony-nominated Sheldon Epps.
You will deeply feel the tension as tempers run high when a lone juror argues the possible innocence of the ghetto-raised teenager accused of murdering his father. The 12 jurors from radically different backgrounds revisit the evidence, debate the issue of reasonable doubt and confront each other’s personal biases and hang-ups while igniting a heated conversation about how prejudice obstructs the quest for justice. An observation by this reviewer: during the entirety of this play, no one moved or coughed; all eyes (and ears) were on the stage. Pretty amazing for an audience of critics and invited guests of Ford’s Theatre.
“I’ve chosen to do the play with six black actors and six white actors. In truth, the play can (be) and has been cast in any number of ways. But this casting choice most directly addresses the issues that I hope to explore,” said director Sheldon Epps. “It is all about the judgements and biases that people bring into a room and the still rampant cultural divide that (deny it though we may) very often exists between races in our country. I hope that what we learn is that the only way to begin getting around all those issues is to acknowledge that they exist. Then we can move forward, just as the characters do in the play.”
All of the actors in this is truly ensemble piece are absolutely first-rate! The lighting by Dan Covey, incidental music by sound designer John Gromada, set by Stephanie Kerley Schwartz, and costumes by Wade Laboissonniere add immensely to the dramatic tension of this piece. Finally, Elan Zafir’s late-in-the-play chillingly delivered diatribe outlines our country’s worst nightmare about racial prejudice and he delivered it with such conviction you could almost feel the return of the nightmarish 30’s and 40’s in Europe and the 50’s here in the US. As frightening as it was, it was worth hearing not only in the context of this powerful play, but to remind us of what could happen again if we are not diligent and mindful.
Boom! I rest my case.
Ford’s Theatre Ticket and Performance Information: Running time for “Twelve Angry Men” is two hours with one intermission. Tickets may be purchased at www.fords.org or by calling 202-347-4833. The show runs now through February 17, 2019.