What is the true meaning of justice? That is the question posed to audiences in A Time to Kill, the world premiere and first stage adaptation of a novel by John Grisham. By special arrangement with Daryl Roth and adapted for the stage by Tony Award winner Rupert Holmes (The Mystery of Edwin Drood), A Time to Kill brings the heat of the Deep South to Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater. Directed by Ethan McSweeny (Broadway's Gore Vidal's "The Best Man"), A Time to Kill runs May 6-June 19, 2011 in the Kreeger Theater.
"Producing a work that asks big questions about how we live in the world takes a dynamic team," says Arena Stage Artistic Director Molly Smith. "Rupert Holmes and Ethan McSweeny are an ideal duo to take on this powerful courtroom drama. Daryl Roth, a committed and bold producer, brought this potential project to Arena over a year ago, and we have been thrilled to work together on the birth of this new play."
The Cast of A Time to Kill features Sebastian Arcelus as the defendant's attorney Jake Brigance (recently seen on Broadway starring in Elf and Jersey Boys), Dion Graham as Carl Lee Hailey (Marcus Gardley's On the Levee at Lincoln Center), Rosie Benton as Jake's youthful law clerk Ellen Roark (seen at Arena last season in Stick Fly and in Broadway's Accent on Youth), Erin Davie as Jake's wife Carla Brigance (Broadway's A Little Night Music) and Brennan Brown as Rufus Buckley (The Persians in New York, dir. by McSweeny). The distinguished cast is rounded out by Jeffrey M. Bender, Trena Bolden Fields, Jonathan Lincoln Fried, Deborah Hazlett, Joe Isenberg, Chike Johnson, Michael Marcan, Hugh Nees, Evan Thompson and John C. Vennema.
A Time to Kill depicts a Mississippi town's upheaval when Carl Lee Hailey takes the law into his own hands following an unspeakable crime committed against his daughter. Now on trial for murder, Carl Lee's only hope lies with one young, idealistic lawyer Jake Brigance, who is outmatched by the formidable district attorney, Rufus Buckley, and under attack from both sides of a racially divided city.
"Growing up in D.C., quite a few of my formative theater experiences were at Arena Stage," shares McSweeny, "so it is a special honor to be a part of the inaugural season in the beautiful new Mead Center. Inside the thriller that is A Time to Kill is an intriguing moral question: is vigilante justice ever permissible? And do we want to live in a world like that? I'm hoping audiences come away with not only a powerful piece of theater, but also something that will spark debate on the way home."
"I'm tremendously excited to be working with this cast and this director in this remarkable venue," says Holmes. "We all know John Grisham as the master of the legal thriller, but A Time to Kill was his first novel, his first literary child, a work of great passion and pungency. I hope this newly created play, a courtroom drama without boundaries, will intrigue, entertain and stimulate its world-premiere audience, causing them to consider what they would have done if they were the defendant-or his defenders-and how they would feel if they were his jury."
Though written more than 20 years ago, the themes of justice and revenge expressed in A Time to Kill remain relevant in today's world. Projections designed by Jeff Sugg and displayed on 1980s-type television sets reinforce the trial as a media sensation, and a turntable set designed by James Noone helps tell the story in and out of the courtroom.
Rupert Holmes (Playwright) has won Tony Awards as an author, a lyricist and a composer, and twice received the coveted Edgar Award from The Mystery Writers of America for his stage works. He is also an award-winning mystery author (the novels Where the Truth Lies and Swing, and numerous anthologies including Best American Mystery Stories 2008 and On a Raven's Wing). He is delighted to be working at Arena Stage and returning to Washington, D.C., where his comedy-thriller Solitary Confinement set a new box office record at the Eisenhower Theater, his musical The Mystery of Edwin Drood had a memorable run at the Kennedy Center Opera House, and where he recently served as a guest speaker at the National Book Festival. Holmes also created and wrote AMC's critically acclaimed television dramedy Remember WENN, which recently received a retrospective evening at the Library of Congress. Broadway: Curtains (Drama Desk Award, Best Book; Tony nominations, Best Book and Best Lyrics), Say Goodnight, Gracie (Tony nomination, Best Play; National Broadway Theatre Award, Best Play), Accomplice (Edgar Award), The Mystery of Edwin Drood (Tony Award, Best Musical; Holmes also won Tonys for Best Book and Score, being the first person in Tony history to singly do so).