Struggling with decision

Things are heating up at the Granbury Theatre Company.

But the audience is quite comfortable with that – in fact, the hotter things are onstage, the more enjoyable things are for those watching.

Heated exchanges are the norm for the GTC’s production of “Twelve Angry Men.” The show, one of the few non-musicals presented throughout the year, is running through May 30 at the old Granbury Live theater on the east side of the square.

Billed as a no-excuses drama, the show features a dozen men in a jury room. They have just heard testimony in a murder trial accusing a young man of killing his father.

Circumstantial evidence strongly points to the young man’s guilt, including a past history of legal problems.

But one juror, known only as Juror No. 8 (played by Kent Whites, who also directed), is not convinced by the circumstantial evidence of the youth’s guilt. Focusing heavily on the “beyond a reasonable doubt” part of the conviction, he begins to pick apart the evidence and finds himself having some doubt.

At first the vote for conviction is 11-1. Then, he slowly convinces others that maybe what appears to be isn’t necessarily so.

A new vote brings a couple more to his side, and so on.

Juror No. 3 (Jay Cornils), however, remains steadfast in his unwavered belief of guilt. He refuses to accept that the evidence before them isn’t enough to convict.

Also, he has allowed his personal feelings to enter into his decision – something no juror should ever do, of course.

The show never proclaims the accused is innocent, only that conviction should be made only in the case of all reasonable douobt being removed. It strongly reinforces that if there is indeed some doubt, remember what is at stake, should that decision be the wrong one.

In an age when convictions are sometimes made for the sake of nothing more than reputations and money, when the size of a person’s bank account, the power they possess or the neighborhood in which they live can determine their guilt or innocence, the plot of the play hits hard.

There is no questioning that the justice system is flawed, and we are reminded of that numerous times, but one thing that does remain constant is the conscience of the men and women who decide such guilt or innocence.

And it is important that they rely on that conscience when casting decisions that will alter the lives of people.

There will always be innocent people convicted and there will always be guilty people set free. All a juror can do is listen, evaluate, and vote one’s conscience, leaving personal prejudices and feelings out of the equation.

The show is also a lesson in working through differences. Here are a dozen men looking at the scenario each in their own way. When forced to share these views and come to one combined conclusion, they learn to consider other views and combine possibilities.

As for the production itself, it is befriended by its brevity of about 80 minutes in length. Driven by dialogue, it must be sharp and delivered in snap-snap fashion, and for the most part that holds true.

Whites does an admirable job of keeping the action solvent, and Cornils serves as a decent antagonist. There are moments when the action slips below the expected pace, but one of those two consistently brings it back.

The chemistry among the entire cast seems strong enough. There are a few times, though, when the anger could have been louder and stronger.

In the end, it is the audience who is left to determine if the correct decision was made. My wife and I discussed what might have actually been the truth.

All in all, it’s a production worthy of watching, and one that will certainly provoke thought – something that I’ve always loved getting out of a a show/movie. I consider it an extra perk for my buck, something to take home, if you will.

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