Theater Review: 'The Jury Room'

By: 
Ben Miles

There’s a dead uncle, his niece is accused of ruthlessly stabbing him to death.  Out of a dozen jurors, only one — also a young female, who happens to be an aspiring actress — is the holdout. Though the eleven others jurors are significantly convinced (or willing to go with the majority flow) of a guilty verdict against the suspect, they reluctantly agree to the actress’s insistence on re-enacting the crime.

“The Jury Room,” a 1999 play by the late dramatist C.B. Gilford — best known as a writer for the TV series “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” — conjures a conceit that is either a parody or a pale imitation of Reginald Rose’s courtroom classic, “Twelve Angry Men.” Helmed by first-time director Jim Katapodis, the script and this staging at the charming Westminster Community Playhouse seems readymade for amateur theater troups and college productions wherein there are many parts available for a plethora of willing players. Nevertheless, this mounting of “The Jury Room” takes its premise more seriously than much of the dialogue suggest it ought to be taken.

With re-enactment after re-enactment this modest play is prolonged and overstays its welcome; at two-and-a-half hours and a couple of costume changes (costumes provided by the cast and crew) we in the audience empathize with the two jurors (played by Eric Schaffer and Kati Moore) who simply want the proceedings to end so that they can return to their quotidian routines.

With twists and turns, plenty of red herrings, with a parade of what Alfred Hitchcock himself called  “MacGuffins” (a device or devices that serve to advance the plot), and with a surprising and unlikely resolution to the mystery surrounding the homicide, it is a relief when the action finally concludes.

Still, it is heartening to see the effort and discipline displayed by these cast and crew members — the cast list also includes Avi Micah Brown, Michael Corcoran, Robyn Courch, Karbala Abrams Franklin, Kip Hogan, Julie Ray, Noelle LeBlanc, Vincent Morales, Maria O’Connor, Laurie Robbins and J.D. Rinde. Moreover, the set design by Director Katapodis as well as the sound and lighting design by Bob Nydegger complements the show, while lending authenticity and clarity to a dramatic premise lacking in both credibility and cohesion.

What: “The Jury Room”

Where: Westminster Community Playhouse, 7272 Maple St.,
Westminster, CA 92683.

When: Evening performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. Matinees are Sundays at 2 p.m., through Nov. 18.

How: For reservations call (714)893-8626. For further information visit wcpstage.com.

ben@beachcomber.news

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