Broadway Joins Race Debate with 'A Time to Kill'

With most everyone in the media today getting hip to the nuanced balance of good and evil, race and America, it seems ever the more timely for Broadway to join the debate. And with that in mind comes the announcement that John Grisham's 1989 novel-turned-1996-film about a terrible, racially-fueled tragedy in a small southern town, A Time to Kill is coming to the stage.

The novel, Grisham's first, tells the tale of [spoiler alert, I guess?] Clanton, Mississippi and the aftermath of the raping of a young African American girl (age 10) by two white supremacists. What unfurls after takes a deep look at the emotions behind all the players involved, and asks the audience to define the question "when is doing wrong in the name of right acceptable?" It certainly feels apt considering the media attention surrounding the Trayvon Martin case, and the country's current inching-towards-introspection phase.

Probably why Rupert Holmes — the show's adapter — has continued to push the project forward since its debut in Washington, DC at the Arena Stage in 2011. Race relations and the discussion of retribution, justice, and the emotional impact of all of the above have only skyrocketed in interest from the general public since those days, leaving a niche to be filled, and — lucky for Broadway — a play to fill it. Add to that the heightened idea of: is there ever a time where murder is "right"? and, well, you can connect the dots here.

What morality is (and subsequently means) to people is highly personal, though there are things that seem to fall universally on one side or another. Like rape — especially of a child. And it is in the breakdown and discussion of the what and why a person believes things to be "right" or "wrong" that we find the raw edge of humanity.

Needless to say, A Time to Kill's arrival on Broadway will cause discussion if nothing else, something an oft-frivolous exhibition like expensive live theater could certainly benefit from.

A Time to Kill hits Broadway on September 28 and stars House of Cards' Sebastian Arcelus, How I Met Your Mother's Ashley Williams, and Leverage's Tom Skerritt.

[Photo via A Time to Kill on Broadway]