DVHS Drama’s “12 Angry Jurors” not up for debate

Elisa Fang and Amruta Baradwaj

On Oct. 7-9, the DVHS Drama Program opened up the year with a fiery adaptation of 12 Angry Men by Reginald Rose, exploring the idea of “reasonable doubt” and living within a democracy.

This courthouse drama revolves around a jury, as the title suggests, who have been handed the task of determining the conviction of a 19-year old boy accused of murdering his father beyond reasonable doubt. The story begins after the closing arguments are supplied by the judge (Melissa Ochoa), and the jurors retreat to deliberate.

The boy’s conviction requires the unanimous decision of all 12 jurors, and as the play begins, 11 jurors conclude he is guilty with the exception of Juror #8 (Rebecca Okmin). The system of justice in most American states declare that failure in reaching a unanimous decision, referred to as a hung jury, would result in a mistrial or lack of administration over a case. The play continues as the 11 jurors try to convince Juror #8 to change __ mind, and slowly, tensions build as the jurors bicker over small things like an open window, and the heat soon shortens tempers as the jurors continue to fail to reach an unanimous decision.

As a reflection of many of the jurors’ own prejudices, such as race, background, and personal connections, the jurors switch sides constantly, not helped by the additional evidence brought to light. However, many indirect lessons, such as prejudice, the importance of self doubt and the overarching theme that things are not always what they seem, are learned through the play.

As the play continues, the audience is acquainted with each of the jurors’ personalities, and use this to understand what goes into their decision. Each juror had their own unique disposition which varied in great lengths. A mini-drama of prejudice and preconception of the trial at hand, each juror had their own view of the accused, relationships with people outside the trial, as well as relationships with each other. The jury foreperson, or Juror #1 (Marie Bast), a non-confrontational person that wants to be fair about the situation leads the deliberation. Juror #8 is the most sympathetic of the jurors, and as the punishment for the boy’s crime would be the electric chair, Juror #8 spends the rest of the play with clear-cut determination to prove the boy’s innocence.

“[The character fit with] everything I personally do,” senior Okmin says. “I [also] analyze before I judge.”

A crowd favorite, Juror #2 (Sameera Rajwade), is the most timid of the group. Yet her character’s adorable personality elicited a lot of laughs.

Because each character was cast based on his or her attributes, DVHS Drama teacher and production designer Paul Vega knew Rajwade had the capability to act timid and shy because she pretended to act scared in front of Vega, whom she’s known since sophomore year.

Juror #3 (Mikhail Adlin) is an impatient character, quick to speak his mind and insistant about the simplicity of the case. In many ways, Juror #3 is the antagonistic counterpart of Juror #8. With his confrontational attitude, Juror #3 adds to this play as the audience is kept on edge.

On the playbill, Adlin humorously states that “this is the third production where he will be portraying a sadist character”, and promises he isn’t like this in real life.

Juror #4 (Lauren Ottley) is a stockbroker who functions on logic and reasoning, and urges the rest of the cast to think reasonably. Juror #5 (Francis Arroyo) is a man nervous about expressing his opinion. Having grown up in the slums, his experiences influence the other jurors in their decisions of ‘not guilty’. Juror #6 (Raymond Fernandez) is an honest and shy character who “takes more time to think of decisions or what to say,” according to Fernandez. Juror #7 (Kaanan Kharwa), Juror #9 (Megan Burgess), Juror #10 (Izzy Roth), Juror #11 (Collin DuFrane) and Juror #12 (Veronica Van Avermaete) participate in the deliberation as well, changing their opinions and convictions as the play continues.

The play ended abruptly, deviating from the script for obvious time related reasons, and as a result, caused confusion for the audience.

“[The] ending was a bit too abrupt,” said Samantha Kan, a senior audience member. “I didn’t even know it ended.”

“[This play is] real world theater. It’s more serious and dramatic [than previous plays],” Bethany Vega said. “[The actors] began play off of each other, [and it really] came together. They had great chemistry.”

Although the final product was a success, the process was n’t easy. A low budget resulted in a rather simple set, featuring a plain backdrop with a window, a table, twelve chairs, and a water cooler at the side. There couldn’t be a set change.

Okmin, who had the most extensive dialogue, said memorizing her script was “one of the hardest things I’ve ever done”. Luckily, she was able to memorize her lines in its entirety right before the play.

“[This play] tested the actors’ ability to focus and listen to one another,” Mr. Vega said, proud of the actors’ work. “They did listen to one another, and they helped each other stay on track.”

DVHS Drama started their journey of hard-hitting, dramatic plays with “The Diary of Anne Frank” as the first play of the 15-16 school year, and continues the trend with “Twelve Angry Jurors”. Although this play was not a comedy, the story entertained the audience, and certain scenes kept the audience amused. When asked to describe the play in one sentence, Vasu Goel, a senior audience member was unable to articulate his impression of the play, exclaiming:  “It’s too good to describe in one sentence!”