Arena Stage's A TIME TO KILL Opens 5/22

By: May. 22, 2011
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Broadway's Sebastian Arcelus, who previously appeared onstage in ELF and JERSEY BOYS, is trying on a more serious, and non-singing role in A TIME TO KILL. The play is a Rupert Holmes' adaptation of a novel by John Grisham and will open today, May 22 at Arena Stage in Washington, DC, after previews which began on May 6.

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 is directed by Ethan McSweeney and runs through June 19 at arena's Kreeger Theatre in the Mead Center for American Theater.

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).

John Grisham (Original Author) is the author of 22 novels, one work of nonfiction, a collection of stories and two novels for young readers. He lives with his family in Virginia and Mississippi. A Time To Kill was his first novel.

Ethan McSweeny (Director) made his NY debut with John Logan's Never the Sinner, which received the Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle awards for Best Off-Broadway play in 1998 and originated at D.C.'s Signature Theatre. Before the age of 30 he helmed the Broadway revival of Gore Vidal's "The Best Man" (Tony Award nomination, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle awards). Mr. McSweeny recently directed a critically acclaimed revival of Dangerous Liaisons for the celebrated Stratford Festival in Canada and has staged more than 60 productions of new plays, musicals and classics for preeminent companies around the United States: recent highlights include the premieres of The Trinity River Plays (Goodman, Dallas Theatre Center), 1001 (Denver Center, Ovation Award), In This Corner (Globe, San Diego Critics Award), A Body of Water (Guthrie and Globe, San Diego Critics Award) and Mr. Marmalade (South Coast Rep, OCIE Award), and the New York premieres of 100 Saints You Should Know and 1001, which were both named among the top 10 plays of 2007 by Entertainment Weekly and Time Out magazines. Washington-area audiences have seen his work on Major Barbara, Ion and The Persians (all at Shakespeare Theatre Company) and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? at CenterStage in Baltimore.

Daryl Roth (Producer) holds the singular distinction of producing six Pulitzer Prize-winning plays: Anna in the Tropics; August: Osage County; How I Learned to Drive; Proof; Wit; and Edward Albee's Three Tall Women. Also: Edward Albee's The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia?, The Play About the Baby and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?; The Baby Dance; Bea Arthur on Broadway; Camping with Henry and Tom; Caroline, or Change; A Catered Affair; Closer Than Ever; Come Fly Away; Curtains; De La Guarda; Dear Edwina; Defying Gravity; Die, Mommie, Die!; The Divine Sister; Driving Miss Daisy; Fela!; Irena's Vow; A Little Night Music; Love, Loss, and What I Wore; The Normal Heart; Manuscript; Medea; Old Wicked Songs; Salome; The Tale of the Allergist's Wife; The Temperamentals; Thom Pain; Through the Night; Thurgood; Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992; Vigil; What's That Smell: The Music of Jacob Sterling; The Year of Magical Thinking.

The Creative Team of A Time to Kill includes Playwright Rupert Holmes, Director Ethan McSweeny, Set Designer James Noone, Costume Designer Karen Perry, Lighting Designer York Kennedy, Sound Designer Lindsay Jones, Projection Designer Jeff Sugg, Fight Director David Leong, Dialect Consultant Lynn Watson, Wig Designer Anne Nesmith, Interim Literary Manager Amrita Mangus, Script Wrangler Aaron Malkin, Associate Director Sarah Rasmussen, Associate Sound Designer Will Pickens, Stage Manager Susan R. White, Assistant Stage Manager Amber Dickerson, Production Assistant Marne Anderson, Stage Management Fellow Kristen Harris, Producing/Directing Fellow Pablo Halpern and NY Casting by Tara Rubin Casting.

Tickets may be purchased online at, by phone at 202-488-3300 or at the Sales Office at 1101 Sixth St., SW, D.C.

Photo Credit: Joan Marcus

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