Excellent word of mouth on A Time to Kill reached my ears last season from friends in DC who caught its regional tryout at Arena Stage. So I hastened to the first preview on Broadway. (“First New York preview” is the euphemism for “out of town” for those who used to go out of town to report back to those in town.) I also hastened after a person next to me at the bar of Joe Allen’s last week, working on the production, urged me to see it. He could sell me Kathy Bates as Peter Pan.
Well, the Oracle of Joe Allen’s spoke the truth.
Broadway, I am happy to report, may have a solid hit in Rupert Holmes‘ skillful adaptation of John Grisham‘s popular bestseller of the same name. Installed in the Golden Theatre, it’s a grand, old-style evening of pyrotheatrics, bringing to mind Inherit the Wind and To Kill A Mockingbird; it’s the sort of taut, tense courtroom drama Broadway hasn’t had since old Mary Dugan went to trial. There’s also a real fire on stage that sends chills through the audience and is a great deal more frightening than that silly falling Phantom chandelier at the neighboring Majestic Theatre. Time boasts a splendid ensemble cast led by Sebastian Arcelus in a star-making role, the wonderful Patrick Page and a delicious newcomer Ashley Williams, whom I want to see in a Philip Barry play. Kudos to Fred Dalton Thompson, who has always struck me before as a very limited actor but here does a solid job as the judge, and to that true American stage treasure, Tonya Pinkins, who is superb in an all-too-brief role. Why this actress isn’t playing leading roles is one of the great mysteries of the American theater. I would love to see her sink her teeth into such current offerings as The Glass Menagerie or even the inept Lady Day, soon to flop Off-Broadway at the Little Shubert. The parts for her are there — it’s the producers who’ve gotten dumb. Pinkins is to be treasured, adored and, above all, seen, even if she merely walks across a stage.
So this hat, which has, lo, these many months become more rooted about my ears — what with New York City Opera closing after 70 years, Carnegie Hall strikes, decreasing Broadway attendance, dark theatres and inept new productions — is once again lifted to A Time to Kill and company. I am once again available for dancing in the streets.
Now I must look up that Oracle fellow. I wonder if he knows anything about all this new healthcare nonsense I must get.