A Time to Kill, With Sebastian Arcelus, Dion Graham, Erin Davie, Begins World Premiere in DC

News   A Time to Kill, With Sebastian Arcelus, Dion Graham, Erin Davie, Begins World Premiere in DC
Broadway's Sebastian Arcelus, of Elf and Jersey Boys, takes a more serious — and non-singing — role starting May 6, starring in A Time to Kill, Arena Stage's world-premiere stage adaptation of the novel by John Grisham. Tony Award winner Rupert Holmes penned the script.

Sebastian Arcelus and Jake Brigance
Sebastian Arcelus and Jake Brigance Photo by Scott Suchman

Arcelus plays defense attorney Jake Brigance in the race-related, Southern-set courtroom drama; Broadway's Erin Davie (Grey Gardens, A Little Night Music) plays his wife, Carla; Dion Graham (Marcus Gardley's On the Levee at Lincoln Center) plays defendant Carl Lee Hailey.

The Ethan McSweeny-directed production runs to June 19 in Arena's Kreeger Theatre in the Mead Center for American Theater in Washington, DC. Opening night is May 22.

Produced by special arrangement with commercial producer Daryl Roth, the fiery drama is said to be Broadway-bound. Holmes won the Tony Award for his book and score of The Mystery of Edwin Drood. McSweeny directed the Broadway revival of Gore Vidal's The Best Man.

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," according to Arena. "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."

Arena Stage artistic director Molly Smith said in a statement, "Producing a work that asks big questions about how we live in the world takes a dynamic team. Rupert Holmes and Ethan McSweeny are an ideal duo to take on this powerful courtroom drama. Daryl Roth, a committed and bold producer, brought this potential project to Arena over a year ago, and we have been thrilled to work together on the birth of this new play." The cast of A Time to Kill also features the respected character actor Evan Thompson (Broadway's 1776, City of Angels and An American Daughter) as Judge Omar Noose; Rosie Benton (Broadway's Accent on Youth) as young law clerk Ellen; Brennan Brown (The Persians and Pinter's The Celebration Off-Broadway) as the D.A.; plus Jeffrey M. Bender, Trena Bolden Fields, Jonathan Lincoln Fried, Deborah Hazlett, Joe Isenberg, Chike Johnson, Michael Marcan, Hugh Nees and John C. Vennema.

Playwright Holmes said in a statement, "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."

Projections designed by Jeff Sugg and displayed on 1980s-type television sets will "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."

The production team of A Time to Kill includes costume designer Karen Perry, lighting designer York Kennedy, sound designer Lindsay Jones, fight director David Leong, dialect consultant Lynn Watson, wig designer Anne Nesmith, stage manager Susan R. White, assistant stage manager Amber Dickerson, and New York casting by Tara Rubin Casting.

For tickets and information, visit www.arenastage.org.

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