By Peter Maddern
It’s late afternoon at the end of a long trial on a stinking hot day in New York. Twelve men have retired to consider their verdict on whether a 16 year old boy has killed his father. The jury is comprised, as it ought, with a cross section of society; the baseball nut, the stock broker, the retiree and the architect (– male society as least.)
Faced with a complete and seemingly implacable dash to convict, Juror 8 (David Grybowski) dares to question the others’ wisdom. Bit by bit he starts to tease out the threads of their tightly woven ball of dogma and, one by one, others see a greater context than the mere words spoken previously to them from the witness box.
What makes Matt Byrne’s production work is the inspired use of traverse (both sides) seating. Instead of the audience watching actors go about their work, the stage becomes the venue for a contest of players, like a basketball court in a big arena, where jurors diddle and daddle with the evidence and take, both calculated and indiscriminate, 3 point pot shots at each other.
Byrne as the hot headed Juror 3 dominates proceedings in a terrific show of internalised anger, James Withrow’s Juror 10’s unhappiness compliments him; both with compelling monologues in the second half. But the rock in the room is Grybowski who skilfully straddles the courage of being the one who stands alone with the grace to expose the shortcomings of much of his fellow jurors’ thinking without bringing more opprobrium down on his head . John Sabine’s Juror 9 is an excellent exposition of the value of age and wisdom while James Black’s knuckle headed baseball bum is a delight.
Byrne also deserves credit for his skilful direction keeping his cast moving about without it appearing staged or distracting. The value from his twenty plus years of directing is on full show here.
This simply is perhaps the best theatre you will see all year – it certainly has been for this reviewer – with an experienced and talented cast at the top of their games.
Kryztoff Rating 5K