Twelve Angry Men Paperback – Aug 29 2006
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From Publishers Weekly
L.A. Theatre Works proves it knows how to package audio dramas with this new recording of Rose's classic play (which began as a 1954 episode of TV's Studio One and then was adapted to the screen in 1957 starring Henry Fonda). Sequestered in a closed room, twelve jurors must decide the fate of a young man who has been accused of first-degree murder and faces the death penalty. One juror must tactically argue to convince the other jurors that this case has significant "reasonable doubt." The talented cast, including Richard Kind, Hector Elizondo, Robert Foxworth, Joe Spano and Dan Castellanetta, provide 85 minutes of riveting entertainment, recorded in front of a live audience. The most trying aspect of this audiobook is matching jurors with actors since the jurors are simply given numbers and not names. The back cover of the audiobook is very helpful; it offers a photo of each actor along with his name and juror number. But it can still be a bit frustrating since characters are never referred to by name or juror number. This slight confusion certainly will not prevent people from enjoying this illuminating play about American justice. (July)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
About the Author
Reginald Rose (1920–2002) won three Emmy awards for television writing as well as an Oscar for the movie adaptation of Twelve Angry Men.
David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross won the Pulitzer Prize for drama in 1984. Mamet is also the author of Writing in Restaurants and On Directing Film, both available from Penguin.
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Top Customer Reviews
As they've shown in the past, LA Theatre works presents the best in audio drama, always offering award worthy performances by gifted actors before a live audience. Twelve Angry Men is one more amazing dramatic experience.
As most know, the Twelve Angry Men comprise a jury that is charged with determining the fate of a 19-year-old boy who stands accused of murdering his father. The action takes place during one afternoon as their deliberations reveal the biases and character of each man. This is a drama that has stood the test of time, speaking to us as eloquently today as it did some 50 years ago.
- Gail Cooke
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
We don't know which actor is which, except by a process of elimination of the voices we do know. The remainder we can guess about, and 'the back cover of the audio CD matches up juror number to actor, which may not be of help; jurors are not referred to by name or number' at all, and the actors are no slouches either. (Publisher's Weekly)
Actually, identifying the actors is the least of our problems, for in brief, we are sequestered inside the jury room alongside the twelve, eleven of whom are fighting the holdout among them who has reasonable doubt.
Their problems become our problems. They react to every little thing, e.g. whether the window should be opened on a really hot day -- as well as the most serious things possible, which manifest themselves as "the seemingly open and shut case turns complicated, igniting passions and hidden prejudices." ("Book Description," author unknown). What will they ultimately do? And what about us? Contemplate, if you will, the vaunted American Justice System as it is, up close.
This is an L.A. Theater Works production with a full, splendid cast, produced in front of a live audience, and is sold in the L.A. Theater Works store on Amazon.com. You can't watch "Studio One" (they were probably saved on kinescopes anyway, the technology that preceded videotaping and resulted in fuzzy, grainy, and distorted products for showing in different time zones.) But you can listen to this and truly enjoy it, over and over again.
In the play the all-white jurors have no names:
#1 is the foreman, a high school football coach
#2-a fairly neutral guy whose kid has the mumps
#3-sadistic, has had run-in with his own son, nasty, says of the defendant, "He's got to burn."
#4-a methodical note-taker who wears glasses
#5-grew up in the slums
#6-an ordinary Joe, a house painter
#7-rabid sports fan who wants to be at his ball game, will change his vote just to get out of the jury room
#8-an architect, man who has doubts, has courage to buck the crowd, without his kind, justice would perish
#9-an observant old man
#10-a racist who spouts his venomous bias about "them"
#11-an immigrant with a German accent who has more faith in democracy than some native-born Americans
#12-an advertising man who goes along with the crowd
Jurors Numbers 3, 7, and 10 are the "bad guys."
The jury is asked to render a death sentence verdict for a sixteen-year old troubled kid who is accused of killing his father. The first vote reveals eleven are in favor of a guilty verdict, and Juror Number Eight votes "not guilty" because he has doubts. The play is about the jurors' lack of understanding of the legal concept of "reasonable doubt." These are not impartial jurors. The boy's defense counsel did a poor job, but the jurors acted more on prejudice than on fair-mindedness. They were too quick to pull the switch on a human life.
It's a melodrama in which everything happens too quickly. The audience has to suspend its disbelief for this play that was performed without an intermission when I saw it. The author uses gimmicks, but they work.
Though the action of the play took place in 1954, it could take place today, because juries still haven't learned to grapple with "reasonable doubt."
Of course, the script is solid with great tension. The weakest part of the play is at the beginning. The judge reads the jury instructions in monotone and every line of dialogue seems to be delivered just a tad too fast. This might have been the director’s attempt to show the rush to judgment but it doesn’t work all that well.
However, once the cast gets going, they’re true professionals. Some of the voices in here include Hector Elizondo as Juror #10, Dan Castellaneta (Homer Simpson) as Juror #5, and Armin Shimerman (Quark from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine) as Juror #4. The story unfolds beautifully with a lot of high tension scenes and most of them come off brilliantly on stage and on audio.
The relatively weak performance of the play had to be Jeffrey Donovan as Juror #8, the story’s protagonist. It’s a tough role to be sure particularly when giants like Henry Fonda and Jack Lemon have played the role on screen, but Donovan’s performance was just weak. Given the caliber of the rest of the case, it’s surprising they didn’t get a stronger performer for this role.
Also, this is not a true audiodrama but rather a recording of a play. This really only hurts in one scene where Juror #3 delivers a racist tirade and the entire jury, those who vote guilty and not guilty turn their backs on him. On stage, the audience could see it, but the audio audience had to rely on memories of the film and just hope that was what was going on.
The way Rose wrote the play or the way the Director adapted Rose’s play (I’m not sure which) also hurt the quality of the story. In the scene where Juror #9 analyzes why an elderly witness may have pretended to see more than he actually saw due to his feeling insignificant, another juror challenged this and a single look at the camera told us that the elderly juror was just like witness. Here, it has actually be said and in a way that’s a little clumsy.
Discussion of a piece of psychological testimony is added to the play but that actually detracts from the story, and in the same scene from the movie that’s so powerful, Rose seems unable to resist the temptation to overwrite in the play.
In the '57 film, After Juror #3 goes on a racist tirade and tells people to listen, Juror #4 says, “I have. Now sit down and open your mouth again.” The change is slight and perhaps in the 1997 version where Juror #4 says, “Sit down! And don’t open your filthy mouth again.” These are powerful moments. In the play version, Juror #4 gives a much longer less crisp response.
In some ways, this might be nitpicking, but when a radio play in based on such a famous and profoundly brilliant drama, it invites it. The original 12 Angry Men is nearly perfect for what it is, this stage play recording falls short.
That doesn’t mean the audio version is without merit. It’s $6.95 on Audible or $4.86 if you’re an Audible member and at 1 hour and 50 minutes (which includes a 17 minute interview with Rose’s widow) it’s great for a long drive and manages to do a good job with most of the key moments and performances.
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