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on February 16, 2016
A superb audio recording of 12 Angry Men. It was actually highly entertaining--awesome! However, the one issue I had with it, hence a four star rating and not a five star is that it is not compatible with ANY of the existing, current print versions of the story. I wanted it for classroom use and ended up returning it because my students would be too distracted by the audio that was completely off from the written version. But for anyone who is looking just to listen to a superb audiobook on the way home from work or something, this is the audiobook to buy!
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on June 18, 2012
(ISBN-10: 1580813402 and ISBN-13: 978-1580813402) Oh, that "Studio One" my generation watched on the telly. My mouth just waters at the thought of such excellence that regularly came into our living rooms as live broadcasts. "Twelve Angry Men" was originally written as a teleplay for the 'studio' by Reginald Rose, who is also in receipt of my kudos for writing the screenplay for the movie of the same name starring Henry Fonda, and this audio CD, which was directed by David Mamet. A real class act, this.
We don't know which actor is which, except by a process of elimination of the voices we do know. The remainder we can guess about, and 'the back cover of the audio CD matches up juror number to actor, which may not be of help; jurors are not referred to by name or number' at all, and the actors are no slouches either. (Publisher's Weekly)
Actually, identifying the actors is the least of our problems, for in brief, we are sequestered inside the jury room alongside the twelve, eleven of whom are fighting the holdout among them who has reasonable doubt.
Their problems become our problems. They react to every little thing, e.g. whether the window should be opened on a really hot day -- as well as the most serious things possible, which manifest themselves as "the seemingly open and shut case turns complicated, igniting passions and hidden prejudices." ("Book Description," author unknown). What will they ultimately do? And what about us? Contemplate, if you will, the vaunted American Justice System as it is, up close.
This is an L.A. Theater Works production with a full, splendid cast, produced in front of a live audience, and is sold in the L.A. Theater Works store on Amazon.com. You can't watch "Studio One" (they were probably saved on kinescopes anyway, the technology that preceded videotaping and resulted in fuzzy, grainy, and distorted products for showing in different time zones.) But you can listen to this and truly enjoy it, over and over again.
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on August 25, 2014
I purchased this in order to produce this play in a community setting. Most of the shows my spouse and I had seen in this particular venue were light-hearted or comedic. We took actors we had not necessarily seen in serious roles and gave them a chance to take their talents to a new level. This show was definitely a hit. This was our first play to produce and we hope to do another one when the next season opens for a list of plays.
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12 Angry Men was first written as an episode of the Anthology Show, Studio One and then turned into the classic 1957 film starring Henry Fonda and Lee Cobb. It’s the culturally iconic story of twelve men in jury room in the Capital case of a young man accused of killing his father and how these very different people interact and how their biases and perceptions shape the way they vote. The film became a classic which was parodied and copied more times than anyone could count. In 1997, it was made into a HBO telefilm but updated to modern times. Rose also made a stage version which was performed by LA Theatre Works in 2005 and released as an audio drama.

Of course, the script is solid with great tension. The weakest part of the play is at the beginning. The judge reads the jury instructions in monotone and every line of dialogue seems to be delivered just a tad too fast. This might have been the director’s attempt to show the rush to judgment but it doesn’t work all that well.

However, once the cast gets going, they’re true professionals. Some of the voices in here include Hector Elizondo as Juror #10, Dan Castellaneta (Homer Simpson) as Juror #5, and Armin Shimerman (Quark from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine) as Juror #4. The story unfolds beautifully with a lot of high tension scenes and most of them come off brilliantly on stage and on audio.

The relatively weak performance of the play had to be Jeffrey Donovan as Juror #8, the story’s protagonist. It’s a tough role to be sure particularly when giants like Henry Fonda and Jack Lemon have played the role on screen, but Donovan’s performance was just weak. Given the caliber of the rest of the case, it’s surprising they didn’t get a stronger performer for this role.

Also, this is not a true audiodrama but rather a recording of a play. This really only hurts in one scene where Juror #3 delivers a racist tirade and the entire jury, those who vote guilty and not guilty turn their backs on him. On stage, the audience could see it, but the audio audience had to rely on memories of the film and just hope that was what was going on.

The way Rose wrote the play or the way the Director adapted Rose’s play (I’m not sure which) also hurt the quality of the story. In the scene where Juror #9 analyzes why an elderly witness may have pretended to see more than he actually saw due to his feeling insignificant, another juror challenged this and a single look at the camera told us that the elderly juror was just like witness. Here, it has actually be said and in a way that’s a little clumsy.

Discussion of a piece of psychological testimony is added to the play but that actually detracts from the story, and in the same scene from the movie that’s so powerful, Rose seems unable to resist the temptation to overwrite in the play.

In the '57 film, After Juror #3 goes on a racist tirade and tells people to listen, Juror #4 says, “I have. Now sit down and open your mouth again.” The change is slight and perhaps in the 1997 version where Juror #4 says, “Sit down! And don’t open your filthy mouth again.” These are powerful moments. In the play version, Juror #4 gives a much longer less crisp response.

In some ways, this might be nitpicking, but when a radio play in based on such a famous and profoundly brilliant drama, it invites it. The original 12 Angry Men is nearly perfect for what it is, this stage play recording falls short.

That doesn’t mean the audio version is without merit. It’s $6.95 on Audible or $4.86 if you’re an Audible member and at 1 hour and 50 minutes (which includes a 17 minute interview with Rose’s widow) it’s great for a long drive and manages to do a good job with most of the key moments and performances.
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VINE VOICEon May 12, 2008
On April 24, 2008, I was fortunate enough to see a mesmerizing production of "Twelve Angry Men," the professional Equity touring company of the Roundabout Theatre's 2004 rendering of the play. The road company starred Richard Thomas as Juror Number 8, but this play is an ensemble acting piece, not a single star vehicle.
In the play the all-white jurors have no names:
#1 is the foreman, a high school football coach
#2-a fairly neutral guy whose kid has the mumps
#3-sadistic, has had run-in with his own son, nasty, says of the defendant, "He's got to burn."
#4-a methodical note-taker who wears glasses
#5-grew up in the slums
#6-an ordinary Joe, a house painter
#7-rabid sports fan who wants to be at his ball game, will change his vote just to get out of the jury room
#8-an architect, man who has doubts, has courage to buck the crowd, without his kind, justice would perish
#9-an observant old man
#10-a racist who spouts his venomous bias about "them"
#11-an immigrant with a German accent who has more faith in democracy than some native-born Americans
#12-an advertising man who goes along with the crowd
Jurors Numbers 3, 7, and 10 are the "bad guys."
The jury is asked to render a death sentence verdict for a sixteen-year old troubled kid who is accused of killing his father. The first vote reveals eleven are in favor of a guilty verdict, and Juror Number Eight votes "not guilty" because he has doubts. The play is about the jurors' lack of understanding of the legal concept of "reasonable doubt." These are not impartial jurors. The boy's defense counsel did a poor job, but the jurors acted more on prejudice than on fair-mindedness. They were too quick to pull the switch on a human life.
It's a melodrama in which everything happens too quickly. The audience has to suspend its disbelief for this play that was performed without an intermission when I saw it. The author uses gimmicks, but they work.
Though the action of the play took place in 1954, it could take place today, because juries still haven't learned to grapple with "reasonable doubt."
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on December 10, 2012
One of the few books I have ever bought for school that I was genuinely intrigued by. I read it in one sitting, and not just because its a short read, I couldn't put it down. Twelve Angry Men exemplifies many of the powers of the jury and just how important the process is. It shows how deliberation and the necessity of a unanimous vote can allow many points of view to be brought to the light to ensure that everyone is given a fair trial.
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on May 24, 2008
I teach this play in high school, and students just love it. If you use the book with the movie, they can study the texts and learn a lot about what is the truth and the value of fighting for it and overcoming our laziness. It also explains well the jury system and racism in the 1950s. Overall you teach them a lot about character and a lot about America. The movie is also excellent.
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on August 9, 2013
In the play, set in New York in the 1950's, a jury gathers to determine the fate of an alleged murderer in what seems to every juror an open-and-shut case... well, every juror except for one.

Students, especially at this age, care deeply about fairness--whether there is a dispute involving their peers, or they've gotten in trouble themselves. They are especially interested in how adults make decisions--they want to know what goes on in the principal's office when the door is closed. This play takes students into the "principal's office", and has them be a part of determining the truth in an important matter of justice.

The deeper value they gain from the story is witnessing one aspect of what it means to be "fair"--to recognize personal bias as an obstacle to the truth. As they get to know the various jurors, they start to identify various ways in which someone can allow feelings to take the place of their objective judgment. And, with the main character, Juror #8, they take away the portrayal of a person who calmly and confidently understands that grasping truth must be separated from personal feeling and prejudice.

Courageous deeds, they learn, don't simply exist when heroes take on evil sorcerers, vicious monsters, and villainous armies. They also exist when someone takes on the possible prejudice in others or in their own mind. Juror #8 has been one of my students' favorite characters--often over great knights or mythological heroes. They trust him, and he helps them trust in fairness.

A secondary take-away from the play is in the brilliant characterization. By looking closely at seemingly banal comments (like greetings), students see the different, distinct personalities of the twelve jurors. The students become attuned to the insight (and fun) that comes from inferring character traits from the subtlest of clues. Every detail they read can be mined for deeper meaning.
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on June 26, 2015
I practiced law for over 40 years and tried hundreds of jury trials. The book was even better after all these years . The jurors represent a cross section of life, and although written in the 50's it is still relevant today. A MUST READ FOR ALL .
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on January 28, 2014
I thought I was ordering a novel and was surprised to find a play as I was certain
I had read it it before as well as seeing the movie. But I really enjoyed the play. Moreover David Mamet's introduction is a great read, particularly today.
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