Also see John's review of Les Misérables
The Lake Worth Playhouse presents the provocative Tony Award winning drama The Crucible by Arthur Miller. The story details the mass hysteria that led to the famous Salem Witch Trials. In the small Puritan village of Salem, Massachusetts, over one hundred and fifty people were arrested and imprisoned for the capital felony of witchcraft between February of 1692 and May of 1693. Twenty-nine of were convicted, nineteen were hanged, one was crushed to death under heavy stones, and at least five more of the accused perished in prison.
The Crucible centers around a farmer named John Proctor, his wife Elizabeth and their young, servant girl, Mary Warren. Mary, along with former Proctor servant Abigail Williams and some other girls, are caught frolicking in the woods late at night. Rather than face punishment at the hands of a harsh, judgmental community, the girls claim they have been bewitched. Abigail seizes the opportunity to maliciously accuse the wife of her former employer and one-time lover, Elizabeth Proctor of witchcraft. Mary admits to John that it is all a lie, but when he brings her to court to reveal the truth and save his wife, the other girls turn on her. Fueled by fear, jealousy and greed, the residents turn on one another in an attempt to save themselves amid the hysteria. In the end not one of them is safe from either the judgment of their peers or their God.
Arthur Miller wrote The Crucible in 1953 at the height of McCarthyism. In the late 1940s to the late 1950s thousands of Americans were accused of being Communists or Communist sympathizers. Those suspected became the subject of aggressive investigations and questioning before the House Unamerican Activities Committee (HUAC) led by U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy. Suspicions were often given validity despite inconclusive or questionable evidence. Many people suffered loss of employment, destruction of their careers, and even imprisonment. Most of these punishments came about through trial verdicts that were later overturned or dismissed, laws that would be declared unconstitutional, and procedures that were later determined to be illegal. Miller himself was suspected of being a Communist sympathizer but refused to name names to the HUAC when summoned, risking imprisonment for his ideals. Appropriate to the subject matter of The Crucible the term McCarthyism has gone on to become synonymous with the term witch-hunt.
The raked set design for this production is cleverly done by Norma Dobrikow O'Hep. The costumes as well are in keeping with the piece, though a shiny, brown (polyester?) bed covering is distractingly anachronistic. This difficult show is well directed by Jodie Dixon-Mears, who manages to pull the best from most of the cast. J. Nicholas Veser as John Proctor has a grounded strength to his character. He has good scenes with Melissa Ray, who plays Abigail with the appropriate passion of a scorned and vengeful teen. He also has some nice scenes with a warm Patricia Storch-Goodrich as Elizabeth. Hal Johnstone is perfect as the formidable Deputy-Governor Danforth, and Megan Anne Bailey does a nice job with the part of Tituba. On the night attended, there were some fleeting moments of supporting cast members tripping on their lines a bit that hampered the pacing of the show and took the audience away from the moment, but the production as whole is quite lovely.
The Crucible opened on Broadway at the Martin Beck Theatre on January 22, 1953. Although the reviews of the first production were largely hostile, the production went on to win the 1953 Tony Award for Best Play. The play was adapted for film in 1957 by Jean-Paul Sartre under the title Les Sorcières de Salem, and in 1996 by Miller himself under the original title. It was also adapted into a Pulitzer Prize winning opera in 1961 by composer Robert Ward.
Arthur Miller is deservedly considered one of our greatest American playwrights. In addition to The Crucible, his best known works are Death of a Salesman, A View From the Bridge and All My Sons. For over 60 years he was a prominent figure in literature and cinema. He was the winner of a Pulitzer Prize, three Tony Awards, and a Lifetime Achievement in Theatre Award in 1999. His death in 2005 was a great loss to the theatrical and literary communities.
The Crucible will be appearing through March 15, 2009 at the Lake Worth Playhouse. The theatre is located at 713 Lake Ave. in Lake Worth, Florida. The Lake Worth Playhouse is a Resident Community Playhouse. Performance times are Thursdays, Fridays at 8:00 p.m. Saturdays at 2:00 and 8:00 p.m., and Sundays at 2:00 and 7:00 p.m.. For tickets and/or more information about the theatre and its programs, you may contact them by phone at 561-586-6410 or online at www.lakeworthplayhouse.org.