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Courtroom Drama: Prosecutor Stars in Play Directed by Defense Attorney

Joliet defense lawyer Michael J. Renzi, of New Lenox, and assistant state's attorney Fred Harvey put their professional differences aside to work some dramatic magic in a production of "12 Angry Men."

The last thing assistant state's attorney Fred Harvey needs is some rogue juror swaying the other 11 and snatching a dead-bang guilty verdict out of his hands.

But that's exactly the role Harvey is playing in the Drama Group's production of 12 Angry Men.

Lucky for Harvey, the play is being directed by defense attorney Michael J. Renzi, who might have a little more sympathy for the Henry Fonda character and the way he steers the rest of the jury toward an acquittal.

Harvey, a Joliet resident working in the Will County State's Attorney's Office, and Renzi, who lives in New Lenox and practices in Joliet, cross paths each day on the fourth floor of the downtown courthouse. And the last few months the two theater veterans have been working to perfect the dramatic version of legal procedure.

In 12 Angry Men, according to the website for the Drama Group of Chicago Heights, "The defense and the prosecution have rested and the jury is filing into the jury room to decide if a young Spanish-American is guilty or innocent of murdering his father. What begins as an open and shut case of murder soon becomes a mini-drama of each of the jurors' prejudices and preconceptions about the trial, the accused, and each other."

That's because of Harvey's character, one made famous by Fonda in the 1957.

Renzi, who gave up a career in theater to pursue on in law, started working with Harvey when he was casting a production of Picasso at the Lapin Agile for the Drama Group. He envisioned his courthouse crony playing the role of Albert Einstein, but instead put Harvey in the Picasso part.

The play ended up touring England.

The two have worked together through the next seven years.

"Even though we're prosecution and defense, we get along," Renzi said.

The Drama Group production of 12 Angry Men has already begun but still has four more showings. Tickets are $19 for seniors, $18 for students with identification and $15 each for groups of 25 or more.

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