'A Time to Kill' Dies on Broadway

Fred Dalton Thompson, John Douglas Thompson and Sebastian Arcelus in "A Time to Kill"
Fred Dalton Thompson, John Douglas Thompson and Sebastian Arcelus in "A Time to Kill"
 

NEW YORK -- The Broadway production of A Time to Kill, Rupert Holmes' stage adaptation of John Grisham's courtroom drama of justice and morality, will close Nov. 17, just four weeks after opening at the John Golden Theatre to blah reviews and lukewarm box office.

Based on bestselling author Grisham's 1989 debut novel, the play chronicles the incendiary trial of an African-American man charged with murdering the two white rednecks who raped and brutalized his 10-year-old daughter in a small fictional Mississippi township in the early 1980s.

The show's October opening coincided with the publication from Doubleday of Grisham's sequel, Sycamore Row. However, while producers clearly had been counting on the popularity of the author, and of Joel Schumacher's 1996 screen version starring Matthew McConaughey, to sell tickets, audiences failed to turn out in sufficient numbers.

Directed by Ethan McSweeny, the production also lacked major marquee names that might have helped it overcome critical indifference. The ensemble cast is headed by Sebastian Arcelus, John Douglas Thompson, Ashley Williams, Tom Skerritt, Tonya Pinkins, Chike Johnson, Patrick Page and Fred Dalton Thompson.

Announcing the swift closing of the open-ended run, lead producers Daryl Roth and Eva Price thanked the cast and creative team for their commitment to the project and expressed satisfaction with the response from audiences who have seen the play. The production marked the first adaptation of a Grishem novel for the stage.

The author is scheduled to host the Nov. 14 perfomance, welcoming the audience with remarks on the play, the novel that inspired it and the book's sequel. 

A Time to Kill is the first commercial casualty among the 2013-14 theater season's plays, following the musicals Let It Be and Soul Doctor, both of which closed early. With a number of productions waiting in the wings to find a Broadway venue, an intimate playhouse in a desirable location like the Golden is unlikely to remain empty for long. 

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