Florida Studio Theatre in Sarasota is offering the Florida premiere of Romulus Linney's adaptation of A Lesson Before Dying, rather than the previously announced Closer, Jan. 9-Feb. 24.
"We had been considering A Lesson Before Dying all through our decision-making process," said artistic director Richard Hopkins, in a statement. "It was the number one choice. But, unfortunately, the rights were not available when we had to go to press with our brochure."
When the rights became available at the last minute, FST, in Sarasota, jumped at it and dropped plans for the Patrick Marber play, which was seen in London and on Broadway. Closer, a spiky look at modern relationships, may play summer 2001, Hopkins said.
Official opening is Jan. 11, following previews.
A Lesson Before Dying is adapted by Linney from the award-winning novel by Ernest J. Gaines. It was commissioned by the Alabama Shakespeare Festival as a part of its Southern Writers Project. The play debuted earlier this season at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival, and later moved to the Signature Theatre Company in New York. The work is set in a small Louisiana town during 1948, where two young black men find themselves trapped, each in his own way. Jefferson has been condemned by an all-white jury to die for a murder he didn't commit. Called a "hog" by his public defender, he has reverted to behaving like an animal. At the urging of Jefferson's godmother, Emma, Grant — a disillusioned schoolteacher — visits Jefferson in an attempt to teach him dignity. Production notes ask, "But how can one man teach another man to die with dignity when he himself finds it difficult to live with dignity?"
The cast includes Gloria Bailey (as Emma), Antonio D. Charity (Jefferson), Chris Curran, Nate Jacobs, Jason Quinn, Lanette Ware, L. Trey Wilson (as Grant).
Brian Richmond directs. Designers are Marcella Beckwith (costume designer), Michael Lasswell (set), Eric Craft (lighting).
Tickets are $18-$26. Florida Studio Theatre is at 1241 North Palm Avenue in Sarasota. For information, call (941) 366 9000.
— By Kenneth Jones