They meet in secret, hash out their differences, come to an agreement and present the results to an anxious public.
I'm talking about the creation of a musical — a process so full of pitfalls and wrong turns that it's a miracle when a new one emerges as scintillating as Theater Latté Da's "Twelve Angry Men" — but I could also mean a jury.
One is at the center of this 1950s-set show. Its dozen characters, including one we'd now call a white supremacist, must decide the fate of a Spanish-speaking teenager charged with stabbing his father to death.
"Twelve Angry Men" is faithful to the seven-decade-old Reginald Rose teleplay on which it's based, but to watch it is to experience the thrill of the new.
Under the swinging music direction of Denise Prosek, Michael Holland's jazzy, vocalese score feels like it's about to step up to a bar and order a Tom Collins. While this show is set in roughly the same time and place as "West Side Story," it's much jazzier. The only musical I can think of with a similar feel is "City of Angels."
Often driven by a walking bass line, often chorus-less, the tunes are syncopated and don't resolve in the tidy way that most musical theater songs conclude. Appropriately, they create a tension not released until the jury decides the unseen defendant's fate.
There are no cues for the songs, which emerge from dialogue and then slide back in, but they feel like they belong because every moment in the 100-minute show does. Like "Company" or "A Chorus Line," there's not much plot in "Twelve Angry Men" but David Simpatico's canny book finds its way into the hearts and minds of each character, half of them white and half people of color.
They have a fair amount in common — they're all men, all sons and, intriguingly, each feels like an outsider — but Simpatico reveals details about their families, their ethnicity, their prejudices and their class to illuminate how they approach their duties.
In Matthew LeFebvre's buttoned-up suits, they look similar when they drift into the jury room at the beginning of the show. But by the end, we feel like we know each one. And, with the men acting as "Only Murders in the Building"-like amateur sleuths, we understand the incremental process that leads to their conclusion.
I have a question or two about the production. (Should Benjamin Olsen's handsome, semi-realistic set feel more claustrophobic?) But, honestly, this "Twelve Angry Men" is as close to flawless as it could be. The electrifying cast creates a true ensemble. Director Peter Rothstein gives it shape, nuance and a propulsive energy. It achieves a balance between feeling like the past but speaking urgently to today.
In short, it's a production that fires on all cylinders. One of several world premieres that Twin Cities theatergoers can enjoy this month, "Twelve Angry Men" feels very much like a show that is going places. Right now, though, it's just for us and it is not to be missed.
Twelve Angry Men
Who: By Michael Holland and David Simpatico, based on the play by Reginald Rose. Directed by Peter Rothstein.
When: 7:30 p.m. Wed.-Fri., 2 and 7:30 p.m. Sat., 2 p.m. Sun.
Where: Ritz Theater, 345 13th Av. NE., Mpls.
Tickets: $35-$55, 612-339-3003 or latteda.org
Protocol: Masks and proof of vaccination (or negative COVID test) required.