‘12 Angry Men’ is courtroom drama at its finest

Harken back to 1954, where men (i.e., males only), did their civic duty, serving jury duty despite the lack of air conditioning and the thin veneer of civility among those men when their deliberations dragged on for weeks.

You can drop in on that time and place by attending the Bay St. Louis Little Theater production of “12 Angry Men,” by Reginald Rose, directed by Cheryl Grace, running Friday through Oct. 2, evening performances at 8 p.m. and Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. If you do you won’t be disappointed.

The set designed by Laurie Spaschak and Mark Madison and constructed by Dean Noel makes an ideal setting for this show as I’ve ever seen. Between that and the 1950s attire — bow ties, handkerchiefs, vests and hats, you can feel the heat generated by both the temperature and the grueling circumstances.

Most impressive, however, is how 12 actors inhabit the scene from the opening to the final curtain, each one giving a masterful portrayal replete with detailed mannerisms, wide-raging accents, yielding both the vivid and mundane personalities you’d expect to see on an actual flesh and blood jury.

Even when they don’t have lines for 30 minutes, these performers offer vignettes of real life from wiping sweat from their brows to fiddling with their hair or ties.

Whether playing aggressive characters, as do Terry Cullen and Gayle Morton, flamboyant opposing forces of nature, like Barry Newman and Bill Matkin, or ably fleshing out less verbose roles as do Bruce Northrop and Robert Smith, these actors never miss an opportunity to bring the realism home with a vengeance. And their sudden shifts from boredom to white-hot anger force the playgoer’s involvement in this gripping story.

Much credit for these successes goes to veteran director Cheryl Grace, who masterfully coaxed such gritty, believable performances from the entire cast that also includes, Mark Madison, Lex Mauffray, Irv Hansen, Jeff Campbell, Jim Codling, Bill Myers, Rick Webster and Clayton Pennylegion.

The verdict is unanimous; “12 Angry Men” rocks the Bay St. Louis stage, and this is one jury deliberation you’d rather see in person than hear about on the evening news.

If you go

What: Bay St. Louis Little Theatre production of ‘12 Angry Men’

Where: 398 Blaize Ave in the Depot District

Show times/dates: 2 p.m. today; 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday; and 2 p.m. Oct. 2

Tickets: $15 adults, $10 Seniors 65+, veterans, military, students with ID, $6 ages 12 and younger.