Regional Reviews: Florida - West Coast
Also see Bill's Remembering the 2016-2017 Season
I don't know if I have ever seen this play on stage before, but I certainly sat and listened to the Caedmon Records recording multiple times. I was also brought up near Boston, so trips to Salem, where the events depicted in the play took place, and the play is based on historic events, were part of my school years. I saw Robert Ward's opera version a few years ago at Sarasota Opera and it packs a wallop. Arthur Miller uses the Salem Witch Trials as a stand-in for McCarthyism and the shenanigans of The House Un-American Activities Committee in mid 20th century America (the play was first produced in 1953), subjects that have long fascinated me.
Mr. Raines has assembled a fine cast from rosters of local (and not quite local) community theater actors, and individual performances range from mostly good to very good. He got his male actors to grow beards (one actor told me he had stopped shaving in June). The Crucible is an ensemble piece; only the part of John Proctor could be considered a vehicle for an important actor. These actors and actresses are not quite able to portray a close-knit community, much less one with a lot of hostility between various factions.
Brianna Larson as Abigail Williams, Kassandra Moore as Betty Parris, Laura McKenna as Mercy Lewis, and Lauren Ward as Mary Warren, the four girls who when caught dancing in the woods point fingers at others in the community to take the heat off themselves, are the most effective in suggesting deep connections. Kimberland Jackson as Tituba, a slave from The West Indies who has taught the girls her native ways, is also effectively connected to this group. Kevin Sario as John Proctor, our almost hero, is individually fine, but does not always suggest deep relationships with others, especially Kathi Faulkner as Ann Putnam and Joshua Brin as Thomas Putnam, characters that weave in and out of John's personal storyline. Carrie McQueen as his wife Elizabeth is portraying a weaker character (physically and emotionally) who rises to great strengths in support of John in the end.
Jay Bowman as Giles Corey, Lynne Doyle as Rebecca Nurse, and Tom Aposporos as Francis Nurse, three characters with a unified relationship with the rest of the town, are all excellent. Paul Hutchinson and Dylan Jones both do fine work as Reverend Samuel Parris and Reverend John Hale, respectively, two men at odds over religious power in the community. Chris Hines as Ezekiel Cheever and Jeff Cima as John Willard portray the enforcement end of things, while Rik Robertson as Judge John Hawthorne is steadfast in his duties. Allen Kretschmar is excellent as Deputy Governor Thomas Danforth, who is trying to keep a lid on the chaos that has taken over the village.
The Crucible is a large, complicated play, with 24 actors listed, and with a deep undercurrent of interpersonal relationships. Elliot Raines directs competently but without fulling bringing the village alive. Donna DeFant is credited with being the assistant director, a position surely needed with this large a cast. Costume design by Ms. DeFant capably defines the era but without rich detail; props are by Donna Labik and Martha Kesler. Ken Junkins is the technical director and Daniel Polk designed the lighting. The play unfolds on a bare stage with only benches, chairs, one door, and a couple of tables to define locations.
I am glad to have a production of The Crucible in this area, even an imperfect one. Thanks to Two Chairs Theatre Company. I won't mind if other companies pick up on the idea of staging some of these great plays from time to time.
Two Chairs Theatre Company presents The Crucible through September 10, 2017, at The Players Centre for the Performing Arts, 838 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, FL. Box Office (941) 365-2494. For more information visit www.theplayers.org.
Cast: Rev. Samuel Parris: Paul Hutchinson