More than men get angry, obviously.
The courtroom classic “12 Angry Men” has been reimagined in the new Playcrafters production, “12 Angry Jurors” by Reginald Rose, in a stage version by Sherman L. Sergel, and directed by Mike Schulz. The show will run Nov. 4-6 and Nov. 11-13 at the Barn Theatre, 4950 35th Ave., Moline.
In the story, the trial of a 19-year-old man for the fatal stabbing of his father has just concluded. It looks like an open-and-shut case; that is until one of the jurors takes a look at the facts in a new way, according to a synopsis. Evidence is re-examined, tempers get short, and arguments grow heated as issues become personal, with each juror revealing his or her own character.
As the various testimonies are re-examined, the murder is re-enacted and a new threat of violence breaks out, all in the pursuit of what is the truth and what is the right thing to do.
Schulz said Monday that the original 1957 film (“12 Angry Men”) is one of his all-time favorites, and he saw the Playcrafters version (with all men) in 2008.
“I have seen the Henry Fonda movie like three dozen times and the Jack Lemmon version at least a dozen and a half times,” Schulz said, noting it’s a classic that never gets old.
“That’s partly because it is so stunningly well-written,” he said. “It’s just beautifully plotted, but it also feels human. It doesn’t feel like the plotting is working ahead of the characters. It feels like they’re kind of all working in tandem.”
“The story is just gripping and it’s funny and it’s moving,” Schulz said. “It’s kind of got everything you go to the movies for and the stage version retains a lot of that.”
It makes sense to create a gender-blended version (half the jurors are female), he noted.
“At the end of the day, we all know the number of talented female actors compared to male actors is intense,” Schulz said. “That’s not saying anything against the male talent, but we have a lot of really talented women and not a lot of shows are written for a lot of really talented women.
“That was something that I was really looking forward to, figuring out how this play that’s in many ways about toxic masculinity can actually work with a gender blended cast,” he said. “I had a lot of fun like trying to figure out which role should be kind of reconceived with that in mind. Then the right people showed up to audition or were interested.”
The new cast features Charles Thomas Budan, Michael Hernandez, Kitty Israel, Mark Garden, Jackie Skiles, Chris White, Jessica White, Kendall Burnett, Cole McFarren, Noah Stivers, Jane Watson, Mattie Gelaude and Shyan DeVoss.
The 1957 film was directed by Sidney Lumet, adapted from a 1954 teleplay of the same name by Reginald Rose. It stars Henry Fonda, Lee J. Cobb, Ed Begley, E. G. Marshall, and Jack Warden. An all-star 1997 made-for-TV remake featured Courtney B. Vance, Ossie Davis, George C. Scott, James Gandolfini, Tony Danza, Jack Lemmon and Hume Cronyn.
An odd directing niche
Schulz noted he’s developed a weird directing niche where all of his shows have been set in a single room with no costume changes.“This one fits in perfectly with what I do, apparently,” he said of “12 Angry Jurors.”
The prior shows he’s directed are “Waiting for Godot” at Moline’s Black Box, and three at the former QC Theatre Workshop in Davenport – “Last Call” (a Sondheim revue), “The Big Meal” and “Venus in Fur.”
He personally prefers plays with minimal set and costumes, and the focus is on the actors.
“I’m one of those actors who gets frustrated by props and driven crazy by set pieces that I have to negotiate,” Schulz (also a veteran actor) said. “The reason to go to theaters is for the story, and you don’t need a lot of pyrotechnics and you don’t need a lot of extraneous details kind of getting in the way of that.
“I would be and I am happy listening to these people just talk every night — that’s plenty entertainment for me, given the script is good and actors are that good,” he said of his cast.
A lot of acting is reacting and the director is impressed by when his actors are fully involved in the play when they’re not saying a word.
“Suddenly you’re asking these incredibly talented people, can you just sit there and listen for 20 minutes, and pay attention?” Schulz said. “They’re getting to kind of exercise different acting muscles with this one, that sense of you can just actually be invested in the listening and also being an arresting presence.
“Because there’s that old line about how at some point, someone in the audience is looking at you, no matter how small your character is, there’s someone who’s watching you all the time,” he said.
Schulz is especially impressed with two of the male actors – one, Charles Budan, who’s just 18, and Mark Garden, who’s making his acting debut.
Budan, “who’s playing the Henry Fonda character, is 18 years old and has the most beautiful sense of rhythm and sense of character,” he said. Garden, who is in the Lee J. Cobb role, “is a middle-aged guy who has never done a play in his life, not in his life, and came in at the audition and read so beautifully,” Schulz said.
“That Alex Richardson, who is producing the show and I just looked at each other and went, what the hell was that? I mean it was like just knock-you-on-your butt fantastic,” he added.
Stivers plays the guard, who mans the proceeding and is “just delightful and who’s found innumerable ways to be delightful in a role that has like 12 words in it,” Schulz said.
A dream team
Schulz said he has a dream crew as well — Isabel Dawson as stage manager, Richardson as producer and light designer, and Aaron Randolph III as sound designer. “I could not ask for better people to work with on this,” he said.
With Playcrafters’ thrust stage, Schulz also loves that the audience surrounds the action on three sides, literally feeling like you’re in the room where it happens.
“This piece especially, as you can imagine, it’s essential that you feel like you’re in the room,” he said. “Nobody is kind of acting for your benefit. It’s like you’re just a fly on the wall here in this conversation.”
The spare single set (of the jury room) is also set in the summer of 1972, which gives more meaning to the presence of women.
“This is right in the midst of the women’s lib movement and the gay rights movement and the civil rights movement and ‘Hair’ is a hit on Broadway,” Schulz said. “I wanted to put it in a place where the kind of traditional cast of 12 angry men would be like middle-aged white dudes, you know? And so I set it in a place where middle-aged white dudes would not be feeling very comfortable.”
The dialogue for female jurors is unchanged from the original. “The characters are already kind of so beautifully well-written. that it’s immaterial whether it’s played by a man or a woman,” Schulz said.
Performances will begin at 7:30 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and 3 p.m. on Sundays. Tickets (only $15, $13 for military and seniors) are available HERE or by calling 309-762-0330 to make a reservation. Tickets will also be for sale at the door (while available).