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Opening Week for “A Time to Kill” at OCT

Feb 10, 2016 01:22PM ● Published by Jason Huddle

The 40th season of Old Courthouse Theatre (OCT) continues this week as  A Time to Kill, the play based on John Grisham’s best-selling novel, opens on February 11 and will run through February 28 on the weekends.

Carl Lee (Clinton McAfee) pleads with his wife, Gwen (Jessica Johnson) in "A Time to Kill", playing at Old Courthouse Theater Feb 11-28

This courtroom drama tells the fictional tale of Carl Lee Hailey (Clinton McAfee), an African-American, who kills the two white men who raped his 10-year-old daughter and then finds himself on trial for his life. Set in late 1980’s rural Mississippi, the story depicts the racial divide of the Deep South and tries to answer difficult questions regarding justice and racial equality that still face our society today. When speaking to Carl Lee’s defense attorney, Jake Brigance (Tim Hager), the character of Lucien Wilbanks (Jim Esposito) sums up the situation nicely. “If you win, justice will prevail. If you lose, same result.”

The novel was also depicted in a movie of the same name, starring Matthew McConaughey and Sandra Bullock. However, Jason Huddle, publisher of CM who also served as Assistant Director for the production, is quick to point out that, while the storyline remains consistent, the play is far from being simply a depiction of the movie on stage. “I think we are able to delve into the characters a little more,” he said. “For instance, we get to explore the relationship between Carl Lee and his wife, Gwen (Jessica Johnson), as well as their perspective on everything happening around them.” Director, Will Baysinger, who has both acted and directed for several productions at OCT, added, “There have been some challenges with this show.  The subject matter is uncomfortable to say the least, but it’s important, and the cast is really invested in telling the story well.”

Baysinger also said this production is a story that sticks with audiences for a while and has been memorable for himself as well. “It’s a great story showing that understanding that inequity exists isn’t enough.  We have to actively work against it, in our homes, neighborhoods, and communities.  Not in mobs but in individual acts of respect and love.

Other lead actors in the play include Stuart Jonap (D.A. Rufus Buckley), Brandon Barber (Sherriff Ozzie Walls) and Roger Watson (Judge Omar Noose). As OCT is a true community theater, all the actors and tech crew are volunteer and live in the area. “To watch the play, you would think these are professional actors,” said Huddle. “I’m amazed we have this much talent locally and I can’t wait for the public to see them.”

The play is considered PG-13 for language, racial slurs and subject matter. However, no excessive violence is depicted on stage. For ticket information, visit or

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