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Bergen Stages Puts Thought-Provoking Twist on 12 Angry Jurors

by: Victoria Bednarz If you didn’t catch Bergen Stages performance of 12 Angry Jurors, you surely missed out. The adapted play from Reginald Rose’s 1954 teleplay 12 Angry Men closed this past Saturday after two weekends of easy-going performances directed by Professor Jared Saltzman and produced by Professor Jim Bumgardner, despite its rocky start. 

On Friday February 25th, the production’s opening night, all on campus activities were canceled due to winter storm warnings, in turn canceling this highly anticipated debut performance of 12 Angry Jurors. I watched this Bergen Stages production last Thursday and by how smooth and timely everything seemed to run, I got the feeling that it was going to take a lot more than a winter storm to break the spirit of these actors. 

Performed in Ender Hall’s black box theater, the show was set in a 1954 juror’s room. The set design was simple and went unchanged throughout the whole performance, allowing the audience to focus on the dialogue and limiting their chances of becoming distracted by superfluous pieces and props. Its walls were decorated with framed American flags and presidential portraits, which helped to contribute towards the play’s theme of prejudice and justice in American society. A long, rectangular wooden table surrounded by 12 chairs sat in the center of the 50s inspired white and mint green checkerboard flooring. A water cooler and some benches decorated the perimeter. 

Most striking was the production’s use of set pieces that were not there. Juror #8, played by BCC acting student Paloma Vizcaino, periodically stood at a corner of the stage with their back facing center stage and gaze into the distance, making the audience believe that they are looking out of some sort of window they cannot see. 

Later Vizcaino along with Evora Nil, a dancer of 10 years and mom of three years who plays Juror #9, deliver a subtle and soft, yet powerful performance. These two are the first to stand up against the crowd for being so quick to decide that the boy on trial is guilty of murder.  Both of them being women provides for a unique twist on the original teleplay, not only since all of the jurors were originally written as men, but also because it introduces a new theme of gender. This production seems to be commenting on the notion that women tend to be more empathetic and merciful, and less hot-headed and impatient than men. 

The hot-headedness is led by Juror #3, played by Mike Rovito, who delivers a boisterous and borderline frightening performance that keeps the audience’s attention in check during the dialogue-heavy play. 

The performance ended with a round of applause from the audience as the actors made their way back to the checkered floor stage for their final bow. If you missed 12 Angry Jurors, Bergen Stages will return in the first two weeks of April with their production of Bill Irwin and Mark O’Donnell’s Scapin

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