It is 1957, and 12 men have been led into a jury room in a New York City court of law.
They are given final instructions about determining the verdict in a murder case whose defendant faces the death penalty if found guilty.
The stage is set at 16th Ave Theatre for what director Liam Hagan says is a play that’s been on his bucket list of shows for at least a decade.
“It has everything: great characters, high drama, a big ensemble cast where everyone has a moment to shine, and some humour thrown in for good measure,” says Liam.
“But it’s the overarching social commentary that elevates this play and makes it a timeless classic.”
Before deliberations in the murder case begin, the 12 men take a short break after filing into a hot and stuffy room. They gather around a long table to begin discussions about the case.
The defendant, a young man, is accused of killing his father and, after a preliminary vote, all but one of the jurors presume he is guilty. Juror number eight is the only one who feels differently and, because they must come to a unanimous decision, the debate begins.
They heatedly discuss the known facts of the case, and little by little the personalities, opinions and biases of each juror become evident. Subsequent votes are taken, and each time there are less and less who still believe the defendant is guilty.
President of 16th Ave Theatre, Heather Graham, says she knew Liam had wanted to drive 12 Angry Men for a long time.
“When he suggested it to me again last year, it seemed like the right time to say ‘let’s do it’,” says Heather. “Although this play depicts attitudes and biases from the 1950s, sadly the topic still feels relevant for today’s audiences and it takes a very brave and skilled director to bring a thought provoking, emotive and evocative play like this to the stage.”
Liam agrees that the play is as relevant today as it ever was.
“The premise of the play poses questions to 12 men who have never been required to give an answer, in a literal life or death situation.” says Liam. “Suddenly, they find themselves locked in a room and forced to examine their own prejudices.
“In 2021, we find ourselves in the midst of a changing tide. Social issues continue to dominate the news cycle, and regardless of which side of the fence you’re on, there is always something to be gained by having patience and listening.”
12 Angry Men is being performed every night except Monday and Tuesday at 16th Ave Theatre from Friday, January 21, to Saturday, January 29.
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