Twelve Angry Men started out in 1954 as an Emmy-winning teleplay. Sidney Lumet made his Hollywood debut when he directed the celebrated 1957 film version starring Henry Fonda. Rose adapted his script for the stage in 1962 and then, much later, updated it for a 1997 film remake directed by William Friedkin. The story’s staying power stems from its infectious fascination with the sound of justice’s grinding wheels and its wind-it-up-and-watch-it-go craftsmanship, both of which are well translated to the stage.
The play takes place late one hot summer afternoon in a New York City jury room where 12 men gather to reach a verdict in what seems like an open-andshut murder case involving a ghetto youth who killed his father. However, when the jury is polled at the start, one man (Juror 8) votes “not guilty.” To the chagrin of his peers, he is not so sure and wants to review the evidence. A few minutes later, when Juror 8 produces a switchblade that matches the supposedly one-of-a-kind murder weapon, we know where this play is headed. Reasonable doubt spreads from juror to juror like a virus, and each time a new vote is taken the total shifts away from conviction toward acquittal. The only genuine suspense is who the last holdout will be and what it will take to flip him before Truth, Justice, and the American Way can prevail.