J. A. Di Bello’s Review of 12 Angry Men

Cornerstone Theatre Arts

Goshen Music Hall

November 10, 2019

Beyond a Reasonable Doubt


     Tempers and emotions were simmering in the Goshen Music Hall on Sunday afternoon, as B. J. Boothe directed the Cornerstone Theatre Arts’ ensemble in a tense and absorbing presentation of 12 Angry Men. The play by Reginald Rose initially presented as a television drama in the mid-fifties was later adapted for the stage. Those familiar with the diminutive stage at the Goshen Music Hall know its intimacy and limitations, or as some are wont to say, its advantages.

Contrary to popular opinion or the freshly recalled agonies of those who were forced to read this play in high school, 12 Angry Men is not about an alleged teenaged murderer. Wisely, Boothe has staged this intense drama in the round, taking full, professional advantage of the venue’s characteristics. There are no barriers here, no walls, it’s tight, it’s crowded, with actors sometimes brushing against members of the audience. Under these circumstances, this play vividly brings to the surface the basic rights of Americans. At issue in the Goshen Music Hall is the American Jury System, and the rights of the accused, so aptly represented by the phrase, “beyond a reasonable doubt.” It is no coincidence that this play opened on Veterans' Day Weekend, a time to honor those who have stood and continue to stand ever vigilant, in defense of those rights.

The jurors given their oath and instructions are confined to a small, taut jury room, where as the process unfolds; individuals display courage, emotions, prejudices, brilliance and unabashed ignorance. It’s a conglomeration of the American public. Sometimes pretty. Other times with warts.

To reinforce the concept of the American Public as a whole, none of the jury members is named. They starkly sit as juror number one, two, etc. Each member of the Cornerstone ensemble provides a credible representation, displaying the character’s blemishes and attributes with passion and credible confidence.

Follow spots for notables in this cast are warranted. Initial light is due for Juror #8, as the catalyst, the man who thinks, the individual who does not accept statements at face value, the one who interjects, “…what if.” Brian Petti is well cast in this highly defined role. His ability to display credible calmness and purpose of thought is pertinent to the purpose of this drama. The character, Juror #8, as portrayed by Brian, is indispensable, sine qua non. Countering, with an abundance of thought, lacking depth, is Juror #10, brought with deliberate and jarring harshness to the stage by Drew Nardone. Landing somewhere above the others on the anger scale is the stellar performance of Rebecca Robbins as Juror #3, a girl tamed and scarred by the harshness of the streets. Ms. Robbins maintains a firm grip on her portion of the stage with enthusiasm. She maintains that command with a sustainable character attractiveness that accumulates ‘till “the curtain falls” !

The members of this Jury are, as said, a “conglomeration,” an American medley. See and remember each, some from high school, work, or little league. They’re all here. A cause célèbre, with reference to Mr. Booths’ cast selection. For, we know them all, some close and others at a safe distance. They are the fixative, the glue that makes this production relevant in a world ripe with accusation, inuendo and unnamed sources.

And aside from the complementary insight and foresight of Director B. J. Boothe, there are kudos for Evelyn Albino, as she scores a homerun with her first production as Cornerstone’s new Artistic Director. Brava!

Twelve Angry Men will continue its run at the Goshen Music Hall through November 24. Seating is limited and reservations are required. Telephone: (845) 294-4188. Web site: http://www.cornerstonetheatrearts.org/

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