Our 12 Greatest Legal Plays: #2 Twelve Angry Men
#2 Twelve Angry Men
Despite its gender-clumsy title and some clumsier legal dynamics, Twelve Angry Men remains one of the most revered legal dramas in the history of the American stage. The simple story, which takes place in a single room among 12 mostly nameless jurors, has the cramped, wary feel of a rush-hour bus ride through a bad part of town.
The Reginald Rose drama—originally written for television—is layered with testy observations and explorations on the role of race and class in a justice system that depends like no other on the willing participation of its citizens. The play more than touches on the lazy appeal of circumstantial evidence and the overt corruption of racial stereotyping. But it also lays bare the role that individual personality and personal history bring to the determination of justice.
NOTE: Despite its early popularity, particularly on the London stage, Twelve Angry Men didn’t make it to Broadway until 2004, 50 years after its first televised performance on Studio One.