A Time to Kill Review - Mississippi Justice

A gripping adaptation of acclaimed novelist John Gresham’s bestseller, A TIME TO KILL was adapted for the stage by Rupert Holmes.  This controversial tale explores explosive interactions inherent in a story about race, rape, and murder. The gripping play is Theatre 68’s inaugural production at their new site in North Hollywood. Directed by Ronnie Marmo, A TIME TO KILL proved so popular that it was extended for an extra three weekends in January 2017.

Ian Robert Peterson and Gregory Thirloway - Photo by Steven Jones

Jake Brigance (Ian Robert Peterson), a white lawyer from Ford County, Mississippi, gets swept into the biggest case of his young career. An innocent ten-year-old black girl is raped and beaten almost to death by two drunken white racists as she is walking home from the grocery store. Almost immediately, the two men responsible are arrested and brought to court. It is there that Jake is moved by the pain and sorrow of her father, Carl Lee Hailey (Derek Shaun), who sits vigil at his daughter’s hospital bed when not watching the proceedings in court. Then the unthinkable happens. As the two handcuffed men are being led from the courtroom to jail to await trial, Carl Lee lies in wait and fatally shoots both men, accidentally wounding a sheriff’s deputy in the process. Carl Lee cannot afford a high-priced attorney but manages to talk idealistic Jake Brigance into representing him. Little does Jake know that his efforts will lead to danger, not only for Carl Lee, but also for himself and his own family.

Ian Robert Peterson, Mercedes Manning, Caroline Simone O'Brien, John William Young, and Jenny Nwene - Photo by Doren Sorell

Unexpected help emerges as Jake pulls out all the stops to defend Carl Lee in the form of his disgraced, frequently inebriated mentor Lucien Willbanks (Paul Thomas Arnold) and Ellen Roark (Mercedes Manning), a sexy law student from a privileged Southern family. The two provide support and ideas in his battle with the ever-smiling District Attorney Rufus R. Buckley (Gregory Thirloway), who hopes to turn his probable victory in this case into a run for governor. Was Carl Lee insane at the time of the crime? Was he justified in murdering two men? Is murder ever justified for any reason? Will the verdict serve justice?

Mercedes Manning and Ian Robert Peterson - Photo by Steven Jones

The entire talented cast does a spot-on job of defining Gresham’s quirky characters, each a link in the long chain of Southern justice. Director Ronnie Marmo masterfully orchestrates the play’s many characters to create harmony and cohesion. Danny Cistone’s set design is brilliant, turning a small space into a universe of possibilities. The entire production team does a stand-up job of moving the audience right into the heart of Mississippi justice. A TIME TO KILL is a provocative production which remains as relevant today as it was when initially written. It asks questions with no simple answers and does it in an entertaining and occasionally amusing way. This is a must-see play, and it is no wonder that it has been extended. Especially in today’s political climate, it offers some refreshing insights and ongoing conundrums.

A TIME TO KILL runs through January 26, 2017, with performances at 7:30 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and at 2 p.m. on Sundays. A performance has been added on Thursday, January 26. Theatre 68 is located at 5112 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, CA 91601. Tickets are $30. For information and reservations, call 323-960-5068 or go online.   

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