PLAYBILL ON OPENING NIGHT: A Time to Kill — A Grisham Goes Broadway

By Harry Haun
21 Oct 2013

Two other firsts for Thompson: this is the first time he has ever been a judge, and it's the first time he's played a role bald. His next career move? Maybe Mr. Clean.

The other Broadway debut in this play is made by Tijuana Ricks in the role of Norma Gailo, court reporter. Her big moment is when she reads back testimony.

"Norma," said Ricks, "is one of the examples of someone who actually lives in this town who is a part of this community. Even though she has a position hired by the courts simply to report and write what she hears, she's still a part of this and has feelings and has opinions, so I try to relay that as silently as possible in the court."

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Tonya Pinkins
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Tony winner Tonya Pinkins packs her small role of Carl Lee's quietly suffering wife with maximum emotion and talent to spare. Her reason for taking on such a small role is simple: "I think it's very rare that you get to see black people in their grief. You get to see them angry a lot, so it was wonderful to get to come in and show us — in a sort of broken place. A lot of times people want to see us strong all the time, and this was not a moment in her life where there was any strength left in her. I think she would have rather taken her daughter's place or her husband's place than to be so powerless and helpless — so I really wanted to bring that suffering to it."

Dashiell Eaves, as one of two rapists, is allowed a chilling scene in which he dispassionately reads his confession to the heinous rape. "I can't say I enjoyed doing it, but it's fun to tackle it," he admitted. Exiting that short-lived life, he comes back as co-counsel to the district attorney. "I have only a handful of lines, but I enjoy being out there, being a part of the courtroom action even though I don't talk that much."

Among the 180 Mississippi denizens that didn't make the cut for the play are two you may be glad aren't aboard: Jake's wife and daughter who are sent packing to another city after the first death threat. The only man-woman combustible heat on stage is between Jake and his aide Ellen, and he has its fire pretty under control.

There is also much more to the story of the alcoholic psychiatrist, a drinking buddy of Lucien's presumably, that Jake puts on the stand to testify to the insanity of the accused — only to be blown out of the witness stand by an ancient statutory rape charge.

"The woman I'm accused to having raped was two years younger than me and we were madly in love and we were married, and that's why it was expunged from the record," said John Procaccino, who quietly keeps this game-changer to himself. "That affects very much how and what I am on stage. Also, he's in the shape he's in when we first see him because he's lost his wife, the love of his life. We don't find out that she's died. It used to be in the script, but they had to take it out because things were getting too complicated. I'm blessed with a character that has a nice arc to it." You just don't get to see it all, and he leaves the stand like a whipped puppy.

Kimberly Williams-Paisley, the bride to Steve Martin's "Father of the Bride" and now hyphenated with children, came in to see her younger sister, Ashley, follow her onto the Broadway stage. She bowed here in 1997, replacing Arija Bareikis' as Sunny in The Last Night of Ballyhoo, and she claims she'd love to get back to The Great White Way.

Stephanie J. Block, star of Holmes' last show, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, came to see her husband (Arcelus) star in Holmes' latest. She's hitting the road back to the stage, too, as the mom aboard a cramped family mini-van in William Finn and James Lapine's musicalized Little Miss Sunshine, now set to open Nov. 14 at Second Stage. And Paige Davis was there to cheer on, or muffle the hisses, for hubby Patrick Page, the defense attorney. That's right: the marriage makes her Paige Page. Singer Dee Snider attended because producer John B. Yonover is also producing Dee Snider's Rock and Roll Christmas Tale, an alternative Christmas holiday entertainment bowing soon in the Midwest.

Phylicia Rashad was showing support for John Douglas Thompson; David Hyde Pierce and Debra Monk came for Holmes, the guy who gave them Kander and Ebb's Curtains. Singer-actress Nancy Anderson, last seen in Far From Heaven and next seen in the Pittsburgh Public revival of Company as Sarah the karate lady, was there for her fiancé, director McSweeny. Busy, busy Joan Rivers ("'Joan and Melissa' is in its fourth season, 'Fashion Police' just got renewed for three years and the new 'In Bed With Joan' on the Internet where I just sit in bed and interview celebrities") came because she is a friend of lead producer Daryl Roth and a fan of John Grisham.

Patrick Stewart and Shuler Hensley rushed over from Waiting for Godot with respective wives in tow. "We finally moved to the Cort yesterday," said Hensley. "We have a week of Godot, and then we have audiences starting next week." He just got wind of the Broadway revival of Of Mice and Men, starring James Franco, and plans to have his agent put him up for Lenny, a part he would be perfect for.

Also attending: Sandy Duncan (still my favorite Roxie Hart after Gwen Verdon, and on tap to salute Ron Field for the "Dancers Over 40" group Oct. 21 at St. Luke's Theatre), John Rich in a black cowboy hat; LuAnn de Lesseps; newsman Thomas Roberts; the newly Emmy-ed Bobby Cannavale (currently crowing out the Rooster role and "Easy Street" in the new "Annie" film); S. Epatha Merkerson of "Law and Order"; Betsy Brandt; newly Tony-ed director Pam MacKinnon; a running-late Brooke Shields; actor-turning director Lee Wilkof; Zachary Quinto (wearing a toboggan cap not unlike the one he wears as a remembering seaman in The Glass Menagerie) Barbara Walters and police commissioner Ray Kelly with wife Veronica.