BOTTOM OF THE LAKE, Wisconsin (WFRV) – Upon entering the jury deliberation room, a bailiff holds a large plastic container for jurors to put their cell phones in. This is a sign that the version of the play â12 angry jurorsâ presented by the Fond du Lac community theater is contemporary. The same is true of a reference to a juror wanting to attend a performance of “Hamilton”, a current hit musical.
Other contemporary elements include a mixed jury of six men and six women. A woman wears a hijab – a headscarf worn by many Muslim women.
Along the way, one of the women takes a knife, a switchblade knife, from her handbag. It seems highly unlikely that anyone today could walk into a courtroom or jury room wearing a sophisticated switchblade – except dramatically licensed in an adaptation of a classic American play.
Much remains of CBS-TV’s 1954 broadcast under the title “12 Angry Men” to the present day: The jury process has its fascinations and tensions, especially in the case of a homicide. That’s why the story has been a staple in American high school classrooms, with students participating.
Twelve VIPs are crammed into a sweltering room on a hot summer day. When their first vote is 11 guilty and 1 unsure, a cauldron of emotion boils.
The insecure juror # 8 (played by Misty Gedlinske) wants others to at least talk about the evidence rather than blaming himself in the snap of a finger.
The spirits are heating up. So are flashes of bigotry, hatred and prejudice.
Everyone in the cast of veteran cast member Matthew Rodenkirch has significant moments about poverty, ageism, racism and more. An aura of individuality fills the stage.
The key is the showdown between Juror # 8 (Misty Gedlinske) and Juror # 10 (Ron Jacobson) and Juror # 3 (Barbara Carroll Pica). Stormy words fly among them and others, but no curses.
All around, the game captures the seriousness of the jurors. Commitment crosses performance.
The piece is interesting in part because it’s a behind-the-scenes look at the jury system that is so much of a requirement of a democracy. Being called to serve on the jury is a possibility for citizens, and â12 Angry Jurorsâ is a glimpse of who, what and when woven into a story laden with mysteries.
The case is that of a 19-year-old man – a New York street tough guy carrying a knife – who is accused of stabbing his father to death. Witnesses say they saw the act through an apartment window, heard it shout “I’m going to kill you” and saw the culprit run away. The defendant testifies that he was at a movie at the time, but the person at the box office does not recall seeing him, the youngster does not have a ticket stub and he cannot name the film .
Wanting to avoid haste to judgment, juror # 8 creates a reasonable doubt in herself. The others are not at all convinced. Juror # 3 is so convinced that she says she wants to be the executioner.
The production has quirks. All the actors on stage wear masks. For the public, masks are optional. Most of the people in the audience with me on Friday night at the Goodrich Little Theater were not wearing masks. (I do this naturally seeing performances in so many different theaters among audiences large and small).
In addition, the production has two intermissions. The original “12 Angry Men” is broadcast in one hour on television. This version seems padded. Still, the coin’s reputation is solid because the material is strong and holds interest: it’s a window into America, its pros and cons. The fur flies above the people who are “Them” of the seedy part of the city, over those “who came running” from other countries and over differences of opinion. Juror # 6 represents fairness and the determination to uphold everything in the jury system.
Creative: Playwright – Reginald Rose, adapted by Sherman L. Sergel; director Matthew Rodenkirch; assistant director / stage manager – Ashley Hernandez; scenographer – Matthew Rodenkirch; set construction – Stephen Gedlinske, Blair Moon, Matthew Rodenkirch; set painting – Stephen Gedlinske, Matthew Rodenkirch; customers – distribution; accessories – Ashley Hernandez, Kevin Rodenkirch; sound and light – Matthew Rodenkirch
Juror # 1 / President – Jeanne Tondryk
Juror # 2 – Jon-Mark Bolthouse
Juror # 3 – Barbara Carroll Pica
Juror # 4 – Eleanor Wells
Juror # 5 – Blair Moon
Juror # 6 – Jerry Donohue
Juror # 7 – Michael Detert
Juror # 8 – Misty Gedlinske
Juror # 9 – Kim Ruyle
Juror # 10 – Ron Jacobson
Juror # 11 – Lynn Moon
Juror # 12 – Antonio Casetta
Bailiff – Ashley Hernandez
Duration of operation: One hour 58 minutes with two intermissions
Remaining performance: 7:30 p.m. Nov. 20 and 2 p.m. Nov. 21
FOLLOWING: “Matilda the musical”, March 3-6, 2022.
THE PLACE: Goodrich Little Theater is located at 72 W. 9e St. in the former Goodrich High School, now part of the Fond du Lac school district office building. “Small” is a bit abusive. The auditorium of the theater contains 768 of them. The space is high, quite wide and on three levels of seats. Tan is a dominant color – seat backs, wall blinds, stage front, etc. The seats are metal-backed, with tiny multi-colored plaid fabrics in the seat cushions and backs and the wooden armrests. The floor is concrete, with walkways covered in beige carpet. The side walls rise from a flat cream-colored surface to small beige bricks and dark patterned vertical wavy surfaces (for acoustic purposes). The ceiling above the stage is a black, flowing surface, and the surface above the audience area is cream-colored rolling acoustic clouds. The stage is elevated approximately three feet above the floor of the sleeping area. As part of an active building, the lobby and all theater necessities are well maintained.
THE PERSON: Lowell P. Goodrich was superintendent of public schools in Fond du Lac from the early 1920s to 1941. When he died in 1949, he was superintendent of public schools in Milwaukee.