The Drama Group to stage ‘12 Angry Men’
By Don Snider November 28, 2012 2:32PM
Three jurors (Fred Harvey, left, Warren Sampson and Joe Hoyt) discuss the murder weapon in the Drama Group's "12 Angry Men." Sampson has dropped out of the cast and been replaced by Jeff Peterson for the live show. | Diane and Chuck Kaffka photo
‘12 ANGRY MEN’
◆ 7:30 p.m. Nov. 30 and Dec. 1 and 6-8 and 2 p.m. Dec. 2 and 9
◆ The Drama Group’s Studio Theatre, 330 W. 202nd St., Chicago Heights
◆ Tickets, $19 for adults, $18 for seniors or $15 for students or for each person in groups of 25 or more
◆ (708) 755-3444; dramagroup.org
◆ A Special Student Night is booked for 7:30 p.m. Dec. 6
for high school students to enjoy “12 Angry Men,” a classic drama on the curriculum of area high schools. The cost is $12 for two tickets with student identification and can be purchased at the box office,
(708) 755-3444, by saying,
“I’d like two for $12.”
Updated: January 1, 2013 6:12AM
The Drama Group consists of quite congenial men, according to actor Fred Harvey.
But director M.J. Renzi had no trouble finding a dozen actors to play irate guys for its production of “12 Angry Men,” which opens Nov. 30 for two weekends at the Studio Theatre in Chicago Heights.
“Actually, 28 men auditioned,” Renzi said proudly. “I could have cast it twice.”
A play originally created for television in 1954, “12 Angry Men” was made into a film starring Henry Fonda in 1957.
The production is about a homicide trial that begins with a nearly unanimous jury agreeing to declare the defendant guilty of murdering his father.
But one man does not believe the evidence proves guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Renzi, who said the play is one of his all-time favorites, is a respected Drama Group directing veteran who also happens to be a trial lawyer by trade.
“It’s an old classic,” he said, “that even though it’s set in 1957, it’s very relatable to the present.”
Renzi agreed that a similar story could have developed out of more recent trials involving O.J. Simpson, who was acquitted of the murders of former wife Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman, or former Bolingbrook cop Drew Peterson, who was found guilty of murdering his third wife, Kathleen Savio.
In the play, the defendant is a young Hispanic. He is never seen because the entire play takes place in the jury’s deliberation quarters.
Renzi has taken the liberty to change the trial’s location from New York to Chicago.
He said he didn’t want to get bogged down with having the cast develop New York accents. But most everything else about Reginald Rose’s script is kept intact.
The jurors, who are numbered instead of named, are a cross section of a large urban city.
They are all male because women were shut out as jurors in capital cases at that time.
“Besides,” Renzi said, “an all-male jury provides for a more dramatic dynamic. Men at that time would behave much differently when they weren’t in mixed company.”
The titular characters of “12 Angry Men” indeed become angry during the course of discussions.
They vehemently argue over the facts of the case. It brings out the best and worst in them.
The dozen men include individuals who are meek, strong, naive, loud, bright and dim-witted. Some are tolerant. Some are bigoted.
Juror No. 8, played by Harvey, is at first the lone dissenter.
He is the man who sees all sides to the questions. He simply wants justice done and will stand up for it even though, at first, it makes him highly disliked among some fellow jurors.
Interestingly, Harvey in real life works for the Will County State’s Attorney Office.
He is also a Drama Group veteran who was recruited by Renzi for his first Drama Group play (“Picasso at the Lapin Agile”) seven years ago.
“We used to go against each other in the courtroom,” Harvey said.
Harvey would be prosecuting attorney while Renzi would represent the defense.
“I always wondered what it would be like to be in the jury room,” Harvey said. “This play seems very realistic.”
Among the most other notable roles are Chuck Cairns as Juror No. 3 and Michael Fisher as Juror No. 10.
Cairns portrays an intolerant and opinionated man, while Fisher plays a bitter and an antagonizing bigot.
Renzi has created a new Studio Theatre configuration for this play. The configuration is one that he reckons has not been used in at least 25 years.
“It will allow more movement,” he said.”
After all, “12 Angry Men” has been moving audiences for some 58 years.
Don Snider is a local freelance writer.
Here’s a look at who’s who in the Drama Group’s production of “12 Angry Men”:
JUROR NO. 1: The Foreman: Paul E. Milord, of Lansing.
JUROR NO. 2: Emerson Caress, of Cedar Lake, Ind.
JUROR NO. 3: Chuck Cairns, of Park Forest.
JUROR NO. 4: Jeff Peterson, of Chicago Heights.
JUROR NO. 5: Matt Lungaro, of New Lenox.
JUROR NO. 6: Gary Korpitz, of Oak Lawn.
JUROR NO. 7: Joe Hoyt, of Dyer, Ind.
JUROR NO. 8: Fred Harvey, of Joliet.
JUROR NO. 9: James Marchert, of New Lenox.
JUROR NO. 10: Michael Fisher, of Tinley Park.
JUROR NO. 11: Tony Labriola, of Olympia Fields.
JUROR NO. 12: Brian Giblin, of Tinley Park.
GUARD: Wayne Thompson, of Homewood.