'12 Angry Men' offers a classic tale

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By Kirsten Laskey

A novice director reveals a natural talent for the stage with the Los Alamos Little Theater’s production of “12 Angry Men.” It’s the first play Courtney Lounsbury has directed and after seeing her work Saturday night, I hope it will not be the last time her work will be performed.

For those who do not know this classic story, a young man (Micha Ben-Niam), was on trial for the murder of his father. The play begins as the 12 men on the jury shuffle into a small, airless room to start the deliberations. What started out as a pretty simple decision became much more complex as the deliberations progress. Soon, it was not just the different layers of the case that were being examined but the character of each man on the jury.

It’s amazing that there was only one scene in the whole play – the small room where the jurors gather – but what happens in this room was amazing. The 12 men who walked into the room at the beginning of the play are quite different after they agree on a verdict.

They were given the monumental task of deciding a stranger’s fate, but the 12 men were also confronted with each other’s prejudices, morality and sense of right and wrong.

The set, designed by Lounsbury and Loida Garcia, was pretty sparse – just the long table that the jurors sit around, a water cooler and a window. At first I wondered if I would be looking at the backs of the actors’ heads for the entire show, but the play cleverly had everyone moving around – whether it was to reenact the murder, to get a drink of water or to stand by the open window.

This was just one use of the set that the play exercised.

Another clever prop was the clock on the wall. It proved just how much can change and how much humans can achieve in a matter of minutes.

The actors themselves accomplished a great deal in a short amount of time. There were 12 wonderful performances in the play. Brad Lounsbury, Joseph Fitzpatrick, Warren Houghteling, Tim White, Alison Mercer-Smith, Patrick McNaughton, Darryl Garcia, Larry Gibbons, John Gustafson, Fred Berl, Iain May and Manuel Baca take the audience on a journey through human nature. They honestly revealed the saintly and savage qualities everyone possesses.

Wearing a business suit and a mustache all while speaking with a faux masculine voice, Mercer-Smith deserves extra kudos for pretending to be a man. Her performance was every bit as genuine as her co-stars.

Accolades should also be given to Gibbons and Houghteling. Out of everyone, their characters were the most staunch on their opinions toward the case and therefore, they were most vocal.

Houghteling, who expertly portrayed Professor Moriarty in LALT’s last production, “Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure,” had another stellar performance in “12 Angry Men.” His firm belief that the young man was guilty unleashed his rage when others question this belief.

Gibbons proved again why he is consistently cast in LALT productions. He portrayed a man who not only defends the young men on trial, but also members of the jury.

“12 Angry Men” first appeared in 1954 and more than 50 years later, it is still being retold. Through LALT’s production, the story continues to educate people about human nature and I emphasize it is a lesson that will never get old.

“12 Angry Men,” will continue to run at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday as well as Jan. 29 and 30. There will be a 2 p.m. show on Sunday.  Tickets are $12 for general admission and $10 for students and seniors.