THEATRE – The Crucible – UATG – Little Theatre – 3.5K

By Peter Maddern

Arthur Miller’s classic takes us back to Salem in the late 17th century. The devil is working his evil through witches, women unable to repel his wicked spirits. Ironically, confessing one’s status as a witch saves one’s neck, but to deny it once accused is to invite the noose.

It’s a sad and gruelling affair as Abigail Williams (Zoe Dibb), used, abused and discarded seeks revenge on those who have put her where she is, notably John Proctor (Kim Clark) and his wife, Elizabeth (Cheryl Douglas.) But there are plenty of others caught up in the bizarre logic and desperate search for the perpetrators by the ruling elite of judges and priests.

Clark shines in his demanding role, scaling a number of arcs of character and plot especially as he comes to face that terrible choice between truth and life. Ben Todd as the self-righteous, meddling sticky beak Revered John Hale is also excellent while Steve Marvanek’s Deputy Governor Danforth is a force of nature which would have benefitted from a healthy dose of accompanying nuance. Zoe Muller as Mary Warren, battered from pillar to post by those around her, also gives a most convincing display.

Marks must also be given to design crew of the straw laden stage with the low hanging cross beam on the door a nice touch.

As already alluded to, director Geoff Brittain would have done well to develop more subtlety and alternate approaches in some of his players’ performances – Danforth too brusque, Abigail somewhat unconvincing as to her scheming, the girls too loud in their displays of the Devil’s possession. Thank goodness for John Sabine’s asides as Giles Corey that shone through as welcome relief from the sadness and madness around him.

The Crucible was drafted at the time that odious Wisconsin Senator Eugene McCarthy was destroying livelihoods and lives on his Un-American Activities Commission. The play’s program makes note that these lessons are still for the learning today, though the immediate parallels are not clear – today freedom of speech is repressed where then and in Salem speaking out about anyone one didn’t much like was, it seems, good sport. Still no one is the worse for having the light shone on the perils of the path Miller refers to.

Kryztoff Rating 3.5K

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