Fury Duty

Reginald Rose’s Twelve Angry Men was already a loud, furious play, adapted from the author’s 1950s television script, before director Scott Ellis got hold of it. In Ellis’ production, which began life four years ago at Manhattan’s Roundabout Theatre, the director turns up the volume on what is essentially an unsubtle one-act about a bunch of jurors locked in a battle about the fate of a teenage murderer.

An unsubtle approach, perhaps, but Ellis has been lauded for taking a noisy piece of well-known cinema (the gorgeous Henry Fonda film version has been a late-late-show staple for decades) and recasting it as a scenery-chewing showcase for Richard Thomas, who puts miles between himself and our memories of John-Boy Walton with this stunning starring role. (Alas, fellow cast mate George Wendt remains the eternal Norm, the big fellow at the end of the bar in Cheers.) Even with all the bellowing that goes on here, Thomas’ performance brings new subtleties to the play’s rather transparent commentary on race relations and prejudice.

Tue., Feb. 19, 7:30 p.m.; Wed., Feb. 20, 7:30 p.m.; Thu., Feb. 21, 7:30 p.m.; Fri., Feb. 22, 7:30 p.m.; Sat., Feb. 23, 2 & 7:30 p.m.; Sun., Feb. 24, 2 & 7 p.m., 2008
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Robrt L. Pela has been a weekly contributor to Phoenix New Times since 1991, primarily as a cultural critic. His radio essays air on National Public Radio affiliate KJZZ's Morning Edition.
Contact: Robrt L. Pela