Last week I was invited to see A Time To Kill, the new drama based on the novel by John Grisham and adapted by Rupert Holmes. I knew very little about it, other than the fact that Sebastian Arcelus and Tonya Pinkins were in it and that it was a courtroom drama. I invited my dad because he’d actually read the book many years ago and likes John Grisham.
To say the least: I loved it. It was about a man (John Douglas Thompson) who hires a very unseasoned lawyer (Sebastian Arcelus) to represent him after he kills, in front of the court house, the men who raped and brutalized his 9 year old daughter. This being Mississippi, and the defendant being black and the slaughtered being white, it was going to be a nearly-impossible case to win.
It held my attention through out two full-length acts and the performances were fantastic. Little did I know that I was seeing a bunch of stars onstage too. The story was so gripping and absolutely compelling. I held my breath when the verdict was being announced.
Among the cast was actor and former senator Fred Thompson who appropriately played the judge for the case with strength and conviction. Patrick Page as the district attorney was tough and charming, if not a little arrogant. Seasoned actor Tom Skerritt played the always-inebriated Lucien Wilbanks with humor and sympathy. A personal favorite of mine was Ashley Williams, who I recognized from Something Borrowed, played the assistant to Arcelus with a quick tongue and a marvelous knowledge of prior law cases.
And then there’s Sebastian Arcelus. An actor who I first saw onstage in 2002 when he was understudying the role of Roger in Rent. In later years I saw him in Good Vibrations and then Wicked, but he never quite got to show off his acting skills like he does in this play. He played the role of the defense attorney Jake Brigance with conviction and determination and such depth. I was really blown away.
Holme’s storytelling combined with direction by Ethan McSweeney, lest we not forget this fantastic cast, make for an excellent night at the theatre.