Review: ’12 Incompetent Jurors’ at Laurel Mill Playhouse

Laurel Mill Playhouse delivers a madcap, hilarious examination of judicial frailty in Ian McWethy’s 12 Incompetent Jurors. The twelve jurors are a rollicking physical ensemble that makes you feel the sweat, the tension, and the strong desires to either persuade or just go home that are the central themes of this send-up of Reginald Rose’s 12 Angry Men. The jurors are buoyed on their journey by a judge (played Lorraine Brooks with judicial bearing and the look of a commanding teacher) and voices in a video (David Chalmers, Ilene Chalmers, and Eugene Valendo) that relay the “facts” the jurors use to dance around and seduce one another.

Lorraine Brooks as the Judge in '12 Incompetent Jurors.' Photo courtesy of Laurel Mill Playhouse.
Lorraine Brooks as the Judge in ’12 Incompetent Jurors.’ Photo courtesy of Laurel Mill Playhouse.

Directed into an ebullient ensemble by Ilene Chalmers, each actor builds a coherent character right from the start – including memorable sketches by the Mob Don (Alan Barnett), his Real Housewife (Penni Barnett), the Eastern European American (well portrayed by Ruta Douglas Smith), and the barely past teenage infatuation Computer Geek (a bouncing portrayal by Reed Sigmon). As individuals, each shine at moments, such as the Foreman’s (Stephanie Ichniowski) breakout acting debut, Juror Eleven’s (Terri Laurino) Lily Pulitzer put-downs and Juror Two’s (Rebecca Kotraba) breakdowns.

As an ensemble, they light up the stage with quick steps, sharp jabs, muted and not so muted panic, and a free for all highlighted by Juror Four’s (Malarie Zeeks) selfie absorbed lifestyle. This comedy and these actors engage and hold a laughing audience as they present a thoughtful critique of human gullibility.

Fred Nelson and Brian Douglas play the premier opposing forces for guilt and innocence (or just doubt). Ambling, stomping, cajoling, or simply reacting to Juror Nine’s (Ronald Araujo) well-developed body issues or Juror Ten’s (Nik Henle) bilious bleatings, these protagonists fill the stage with heat, thought, heart touching passions, and twists that would leave Balanchine cross-legged.

Set design (Ilene Chalmers) and dressing (Sacha Nelson) capture the run-down feel of a 1970’s municipal conference room, complete with a flag and an air-conditioning unit held up by duct tape. Lighting (Ilene Chalmers) was consistent and sound design (Fred Nelson) were reminiscent of a 1960’s courtroom drama, setting the tone for the serious sendup about to commence.

Spend an evening with this cast and crew – they are having a great time, you will too.

Running Time: 90 minutes, with one intermission

12 Incompetent Jurors plays through February 24, 2019, at Laurel Mill Playhouse – 508 Main Street, in Laurel, MD. For tickets, purchase at the door (cash or check only), call the box office at (301) 617-9906 or go online.


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