“Twelve Angry Women,” the play opening tomorrow at The Actors Studio of Newburyport, is not about angry women.
In fact, according to director Kathleen Isbell, only one character is angry. Well, maybe two.
The real subject is the search for justice among 12 jurors, whose outspoken and unspoken prejudices also stand trial.
The drama follows the jury, who all happen to be women, impaneled in a sweltering room and seeking agreement on a verdict in a 1950s murder trial. The defendant is a minority teenager accused of stabbing his father.
The play begins with almost unanimous agreement finding the defendant guilty. But one juror votes not guilty and questions the principle of “beyond a reasonable doubt.”
The next 90 minutes, with one intermission, consists of dialogue that slowly reveals the hidden self that each juror has brought to the room. In the process of wrangling with the overarching goal of justice, they confront their own and each other’s truths and lies.
“Every character has their own lens of what justice is,” said Kathy Weinstock, who plays Juror 9.
“Each role is a potential star,” Isbell said. “Twelve characters, and each have their own life.”
Weinstock credits Isbell with helping each actress bring a complete character onto the stage by requiring them to develop their own backstories for their characters.
“My character discovers her voice and in this way discovers that she has strong opinions and strong convictions,” Weinstock said. “She has carried an albatross for 20 years, and this is the time to redeem herself. For her, it is an honor to be part of a jury, and making the right decision becomes a type of redemption for her.”
“The characters are seeking resolution of their own relationships on the jury,” said Sherry Bonder, who plays Juror 8. “This allows the healing of the underlying issues that each character has brought to the room.”