In association with Daryl Roth, Arena Stage in Washington, DC, gave Holmes' adaptation its world premiere in May 2011. Ethan McSweeny directed. Roth and Eva Price will produce the Broadway run; McSweeny will again direct.
A Time to Kill tells of a Mississippi town's upheaval when Carl Lee Hailey (played by Dion Graham in DC) takes the law into his own hands following a shocking crime committed against his daughter. He goes on trial for murder, and he's defended by a young, idealistic lawyer named Jake Brigance (played by Sebastian Arcelus in DC), who battles a formidable district attorney named Rufus Buckley (played by Brennan Brown in DC).
Holmes, a Tony Award winner for writing The Mystery of Edwin Drood, told Playbill.com on Nov. 3, 2011, "We learned a great deal from our wonderful cast and uplifting run at Arena Stage. A most gratifying lesson was how strongly and viscerally audiences respond to a story that feels immediate and relevant despite its 1980s setting. …We discovered the epic sweep of John Grisham's novel could move like a rocket when propelled by unrelenting action and conflict, and that by placing the audience in the jury box during the play's flamboyant courtroom scenes, we could harvest powerful reactions ranging from shock and outrage to tears and even rich laughter for the highly-theatrical shell game of a high-profile murder trial."
He added, "Our recent post-Arena reading experimented with the addition of a character in order to enrich the racial themes of our play, redefining two existing characters, and shaping a new presentation of the trial's outcome; in all cases, I believe the experiments were a success."