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Curtain Rises: Verdict: Perform ‘12 Jurors’ at Pa. Playhouse

In March 2020, the 14 cast members of “Twelve Angry Jurors” were in their final rehearsals at The Pennsylvania Playhouse when everything was shut down by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Now the cast is finally getting the chance to return to the Bethlehem theater’s stage for 12 live performances June 4 - 21. Curtain is 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sundays.

“’Twelve Angry Jurors’ was in tech week last year when the pandemic hit and the cast and crew are very happy to finally be able to perform,” says Playhouse Theater Administrator Rody Gilkeson.

Gilkeson says the performing rights company that handles the play doesn’t offer streaming or online viewing rights, so “Jurors” will be the first all-live production at the Playhouse in more than a year.

Pennsylvania Playhouse’s most recent production, “Talley’s Folly,” was presented live and as video-on-demand.

“We are pushing hard to get people to return to the theater,” Gilkeson says.

“Twelve Angry Jurors” was written by Reginald Rose originally as the Emmy-winning 1954 “Twelve Angry Men” for CBS-TV’s “Studio One” anthology series. It was written for men only because it’s set in a time when women weren’t allowed jury duty. The production at the Playhouse was adapted by Sherman L. Sergel for a mixed-gender cast.

The play contemplates the responsibility of 12 ordinary people as they consider the guilt or innocence of a 19-year-old man accused of murdering his father.

The story unfolds after closing arguments have been presented in the trial and the judge is giving his instructions to the jury. In criminal cases, jurors must unanimously decide on a verdict. If anyone dissents it will result in a “hung jury” and a mistrial will be declared. The jury also is told that a guilty verdict will bring a mandatory death sentence.

As the jurors retreat to the jury room to deliberate, what seems like an open and shut case turns into a debate of ideals when one juror won’t vote to convict.

The jurors bring their own histories, prejudices and biases to the jury room as they work through the life or death decision in the play that examines the very human side of the United States’ justice system.

The cast, returning from last year, includes Gary Boyer, Jillian McLuhan, Shaun Hayes, Renata Zumberge, Gabe Craig, Jenelle Castrigano, Parker Ryan, Dara Connelly, John Corl, Trish Steele, Denise Shelton and Sue Matol as the jurors, Michael Sheridan as the guard and Gene Connelly as the voice of the judge.

The Playhouse production’s director Marian Barshinger says the actors have been rehearsing with face masks and plan to wear clear face shields for performances.

Gilkeson says. as of the deadline for this article, face masks are required for theater-goers. However, he recommends patrons check the Playhouse website for updates.

Tickets are being sold as general admission. The audience will be seated in a socially-distanced manner.

Tickets: www.paplayhouse.org; 610-865-6665

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY MARIAN BARSHINGER From left, standing, Dara Connelly (Juror 8), Jenelle Castrignano (Juror 6), Shaun Hayes (Juror 3) and, sitting, Gary Boyer (Foreman), Jillian McLuhan (Juror 2), Denise Shelton (Juror 11) and Trish Steele (Juror 10), “Twelve Angry Jurors,” June 4 - 21, The Pennsylvania Playhouse, Bethlehem.