Review: A Time to Kill by Chautauqua Playhouse

Showtimes: Fri 8pm, Sat 8pm, Sun 2pm. Through 4/22; $19-$21; Chautauqua Playhouse, 5325 Engle Road, Suite 110 in Carmichael; (916) 489-7529;
Rated 4.0

John Grisham’s first book, A Time to Kill, was made into a movie in 1996. Now it is brought to the stage in an adaptation by Rupert Holmes and presented by the Chautauqua Playhouse under the direction of Dean Shellenberger.

This courtroom drama takes place in a small town in Mississippi and deals with the changing racial politics of the 1980s.

Tarig Elsiddig is powerful as Carl Lee Hailey, an African-American man whose 10-year-old daughter has been raped and nearly murdered by two racist rednecks. Hailey is so filled with fury that he takes matters into his own hands and murders the men in the courthouse.

Tim Yancey is Jake Brigance, the attorney who will defend Hailey. He’s not quite Atticus Finch, but he is passionate in his desire to get this man off on an insanity plea. Vincent Keene gives an electric performance in the not-very-likeable role of prosecuting attorney Rufus Buckley, and Sam Ademola is quite good as the sheriff, Ozzie Walls. Jennifer Russell is excellent as the judge who presides over the trial.

A lot of suspension of disbelief is necessary for this play (how does Hailey get an assault rifle into a courtroom?). There are many scenes, and while the movement of set pieces to delineate different locations goes quickly and smoothly, it does have a choppy feel.

Still, it’s an enjoyable production, well done by the Chautauqua players.