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'We didn't change the lines': Port Moody theatre company performs provocative 50s play

"Twelve Angry Jurors" is Ioco Players' version of the classic American courtoom drama, "Twelve Angry Men."

A 19-year-old man is on trial for murdering his father.

And all the jury members believe he's guilty — except for one.

That's the plot for Twelve Angry Men, a classic American courtroom drama that explores prejudices in the 1950s.

It's also the spring production for the Ioco Players, Port Moody's newest theatrical company led by Mike Arseneault.

Penned as a teleplay by Reginald Rose and adapted for the stage in 1955 — then as a film, directed by Sidney Lumet in 1957 — the show follows the dozen jury members as they're about to pronounce the fate of the young man accused of stabbing his father to death.

Instead, they change their minds after being convinced by the hold-out juror of reasonable doubt.

For the Port Moody production, Arseneault switched the title to Twelve Angry Jurors to accommodate the female cast members and give it a modern twist by making it inclusive.

Still, the old-fashioned biases linger.

"It's about 12 people coming together, but unfortunately a lot of the themes back then are still around today: judging people by the colour of the skin or what they’re wearing. We haven't changed any of the lines," said Arseneault.

"The whole goal of the show is for people to walk out and be kinder. We need to listen to each other’s point of view, even if we don't like it. This is what makes us a stronger community."

Arseneault said he specifically cast actors from different backgrounds and with various theatrical experience to make the play diverse:

  • Paul Wiebe (Juror 1)
  • Angela Konieczny (Juror 2)
  • Garth Hodgson (Juror 3)
  • Michael Kahn (Juror 4)
  • Mantaj Bains (Juror 5)
  • Stephanie Wood (Juror 6)
  • Jesse Peachment (Juror 7)
  • Robson Baker (Juror 8)
  • Sue Davey (Juror 9)
  • Chuck Mayne (Juror 10)
  • Bhushan Patil (Juror 11)
  • Jennifer Hague (Juror 12)

Meanwhile, Port Moody Mayor Meghan Lahti returns to Ioco Players to play the judge, while Pete Spiller is the guard and Seamus Heffernan is the clerk (Judy Flaten and Jenny Norris are swings).

Directed by Arseneault and Anita Spiller, Twelve Angry Jurors also features original music by Hodgson.

Arseneault, who portrayed Juror 1 (the foreman) on a Portland, Ore., stage years ago, admits the dialogue-heavy show has serious material and isn’t appropriate for kids.

But he feels the provocative topics — such as father–son relationships, having a difference of opinions and judging people by the looks — are important to raise and spark conversations.

"The whole show is about the doubt and insecurities that we face," he said.

"We live in a society with different types of people, so everyone in the audience will find things in the characters that they can relate to and understand. Perhaps, we can look at our community and have more compassion as a result."

Twelve Angry Jurors runs June 8 to 10 at the Inlet United Church at The Springs (2315 Spring St.) with a 2 p.m. matinee on June 10.

There is a free 30-minute talk back with the cast and crew after the afternoon performance. For tickets, you can visit Ioco Players' Eventbrite page.