12 Incompetent Men (And Women!)
nytheatre.com review by Melanie N. Lee
August 18, 2010
People have reasons to be angry at the seeming incompetence popping up in our judicial system, from the O.J. trial to the Rodney King verdict to Lindsay Lohan's 84-minute stint in jail in 2007. In Reginald Rose's 1954 play Twelve Angry Men, a lone juror tries to persuade his fellows not to convict a young man of murdering his father. In Ian McWethy's parody, 12 Incompetent Men (and Women!), directed by Jeff Glaser, a lone juror tries to dissuade his peers from convicting a man of abducting a half-dozen cats from his neighbor's yard sale. If the original play indicted our rush to condemn the marginalized, this laugh-filled, absurdist farce indicts our willingness to be swayed by the most outlandish of arguments.
Defendant Donald Pleats is accused of stealing six cats and throwing them off a balcony. Evidence against this alleged catnapper includes a videotape, eyewitnesses, and a flippant confession on the witness stand. The judge expects the jury to decide this "open-and-shut" case within minutes.
This jury of eight men and four women contains jurors you hope would never serve in real life. Among them: the Foreman (Melanie Hopkins), who takes improv classes, uses a fake British accent, and takes her re-enactment of witness testimony to the nth degree; a blue-collar Italian American man (Marco Formosa), arm in a cast, who somehow piggy-backed himself onto his wife's summons; an under-dressed post-adolescent (Jessica Howell) who only has eyes for her cell phone, and whose tank top declares "Drunko de Mayo"; a recent immigrant (Kim Carpenter), probably Russian, who needs American English expressions explained to her; a highly neurotic, balding, bespectacled man (Brendan Conheady) with enough nervous tics to intrigue Freud; and an extremely shy "little boy" type (Ian McWethy) who can't make a simple point without stammering.
More "normal," yet not without their neuroses and quirks, are the Italian American wife (Carrie McCrossen) whose outer calm gets blown away; an angry, stereotypical blue-collar WASP (Chris Bester) who proudly sports his American flag pin and his bigotries; an ingratiating bald, overweight guy (Amir Wachterman) of golly-gee-wow mannerisms; a man in a yellow shirt (Roger Lirtsman) who tries to keep peace and order; and a proud public relations specialist (Zack Robidas) in a suit, who teasingly won't name his super-famous celebrity client.
And let's not forget our would-be hero, Juror #8 (Josh LaCasse), whose histrionics, visual aids, and arguments for the accused's possible innocence involve taxidermy, the Jurassic Park video, celebrities' relatives, improvisation with the Forewoman, and a "confession" of his own. In addition, the jurors argue over "catnapper" versus "cat burglar," whether the term "loose gums" insults Italians, the meaning of "reasonable doubt," and the degree of what's at stake. Juror 8 keeps screaming, "A man's life is at stake!" Another juror keeps reminding him that the defendant is only facing three to six months.
The costume designs by Cassie Foote enhance this farce, as does the sound design by Chris Barlow, which includes clever use of familiar TV themes like Law and Order and Dragnet—probably a reminder of the source, and the consequent lack of depth, of the jury's understanding of law and justice.