Monday, October 21, 2013

A Time to Kill @ The John Golden Theatre

When I walk out of a theatre, I enjoy listening to the conversations from the audience. A good play is one that inspires, evokes emotion, and compels - “A Time to Kill,” missed the mark.

             Written by Rupert Holmes and directed by Ethan McSweeney, the play is the stage adaptation of John Grisham’s famous courtroom drama, that takes place in a deep southern county in Mississippi during the early 1980’s.  Racing through rape, murder, the KKK’s destructive rituals, and courtroom politics, I was curiously disappointed by a lack of urgency in the play. McSweeney had all the resources to create a show that compelled and shocked an audience with the truth of the South’s no so distant history, and instead other than a persistent use of the “n” word, there was nothing provocative about the performance and nothing to show the audience that civil rights had been “granted” just ten years before and some areas were still chafing from the fact that they could no longer legally treat other humans as inferior.

            Truthful performances given by Sebastian Arcelus(Jake Brigance), Tom Skerritt(Lucien Wilbanks), and Patrick Page(Rufus Buckley) make it worth seeing. Disappointed that John Douglas Thompson(Carl Lee Hailey) only seemed to have two volumes and no chemistry with onstage wife, Tonya Pinkins(Gwen Hailey), while supposedly, peppy, whip-smart, Bostonian law student, Ashley Williams(Ellen Roark) had no Boston accent, and seemingly only one stage cue – to half-heartedly seduce Jake Brigance.

            The three women lacked any of the Southern traditional female qualities that help create empathy, while the women who were instrumental in Grisham’s novel, Jake’s wife and daughter, and Carl Lee’s daughter, were demoted to a telephone call and projection. A mistake, as they would have brought depth to their male counterparts. How could an audience react to seeing a broken, ten year old girl onstage? I can guarantee it would bring the urgency that was lacking but essential to creating empathy for Carl Lee.

            A revolving stage and gorgeous projections make scene changes pass smoothly, while also giving background to the area, the plot, and the dramatic moments. For such a horrible, awful subject, there were no tears and far too much laughter from the audience provided by unnecessary one liners in the script. To me, that defeats the purpose of performing a culturally traumatic drama such as this. A Time to Kill fell short. 

A Time To Kill opened October 20th , 2013 at Broadway's Golden Theatre.

Review By: Aziza Seven

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