Life Is in Their Hands;Death Is on Their Minds

April 25, 2008

In Costa Rica, which does not have the jury system to hear evidence and pass judgment against a person accused of a serious crime, the British and U.S. jury system of a panel of peers may seem clumsy and archaic. It is rooted in the Magna Carta from 13th century England, when the power of the crown was curbed, thus launching the fight for human rights for the previously defenseless “lower orders.”

This has evolved over the centuries to a panel of 12 people, formerly only landowning white men, but now including women and minorities as well.Usually people welcome a call to jury duty as they would a root canal or tax audit, but they will doggedly defend their right to maintain this system.

The Little Theatre Group’s next production of “Twelve Angry Men” is a play based on this system in a U.S. city, involving a murder trial in which an inner-city brutalizing father has allegedly been stabbed to death by his son, who was assumed to have reached the end of his tether.

The play takes place in the court’s jury room where the 12 men have been locked in on a sultry summer day. These dozen disparate individuals portray a full gamut of human strengths, weaknesses, foibles, bigotry and just plain cussedness, their raw emotions revealed in scenes of high drama.

Many older readers will recall that “Twelve Angry Men” won considerable fame in 1957 as a highly acclaimed, lowbudget, black and-white movie starring such big names as Henry Fonda, Lee J. Cobb, Ed Begley and E.G. Marshall.

It was directed by Sidney Lumet and based on the play by Reginald Rose, which first aired in 1954 on CBS’s “Studio One” TV. On the 40th anniversary of the movie, it was reprised on television starring Jack Lemmon.

The Little Theatre Group will be staging “Twelve Angry Men,” under the direction of veteran actor and director Tom Humes, for three weekends, May 16 to June 1, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2:30 p.m., at the group’s new home in the Laurence Oliver Theater in San José, at Avenida 2, Calle 28, next to Sala Garbo. Tickets can be booked by calling 8355-1623 or by visiting www.littletheatregroup.org.

A Women’s Club fundraiser will be held May 25; for information on this performance, call 2265-5085 or 2267-7042.

 

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