I've read the novel and I saw the movie A Time to Kill. I enjoyed them both well enough, and I suppose I had a reasonably good time at the play. I just don't know why they made it into a play. There was nothing really theatrical or anything new about this production that made it clear to me why they adapted it. Other than to have a recognizable title for a Broadway play. Is it cynical of me to suggest that's the only reason this production came to be?
The show is directed with a light touch, probably to not seem overly sentimental - it's presented at a brisk pace, but there isn't much suspense. The script has been so stacked in the defendant's favor, I began wishing for the end a lot sooner than I should've. There's no real moral or philosophical complexity, it's just plot and resolution. The physical production was slick and polished, but I wasn't really fond of the turntable set - I thought it was either laughably on the nose "the wheels of justice turning," or laughably on the nose referring to the song "Turn Turn Turn." Either way, the constant turning of the set became annoying to me and it made the already-approaching-too-long play even longer. It also just played up the fact that they were just trying to make this play as close to a film as they could. So, again, why was it a play?
The cast is filled with familiar names and they all do a good job with very sketchily written characters. I guess to get a really large book to a manageable size, things needed to be cut. Characters are cut and subplots aren't mentioned, but character development should've really stayed behind. Not so much. Every character is as they ever were throughout the play. No one grows, no one changes, no one needs to dig deep for anything. So that made for a rather shallow and bloodless, though attractively presented, afternoon.
|Photo credit: Carol Rosegg|
|Photo credit: Carol Rosegg|
I found it odd that the play doubled up a couple of the actors - there are fourteen actors playing seventeen characters. Why not go with seventeen actors? I mean, I guess I can understand why the actors playing the redneck rapists in the first scene would want more to do, but it was jarring to me to see them turn up as a lawyer and a doctor later on. One other actor doubled up, but he didn't bother me as much. I don't know why it bothered me, but it did. Oh well.
Since I liked the book and movie well enough, and I responded pretty favorably to this cast, I was reasonably engaged throughout the afternoon. I just think they could've done so much more. I'm actually a little surprised the play didn't do more business - it seems a good title that would appeal to tourists, and it seems a nice alternative to the heavier pieces that are playing right now. The crowd who was at the matinee was engaged and jumped to their feet at the end, but I guess if you can cheaply rent the movie, why pay hundreds of dollars to see a reasonable facsimile onstage? Maybe if they had made this adaptation a true piece of theater instead of basically the movie onstage, they would've been able to better position themselves. I don't know. It's disappointing, though - a crackerjack courtroom thriller onstage with this talented cast could (and should) be a lot of fun. This was just reasonably pleasant. Not the best of endorsements, unfortunately...