Regional Reviews: Florida - West Coast
Also see Bill's review of Something Rotten!
The Crucible is usually on the short list of Arthur Miller's strongest plays, along with Death of a Salesman, All My Sons, A View From the Bridge, The Price, and possibly After the Fall. The Crucible tells the story of the Salem witch trials, one of the scariest times in American history, with institutional power growing completely out of hand based on nothing more than accusations made by some young girls. The play premiered in 1953 and the parallels with then current McCarthyism gave it added power. With the McCarthy era almost 70 years in our past and mostly faded from people's memories, I feel this play now exists solely as a historical drama. If director Edwards thought the play might reflect our current political climate, I don't think it does.
Across a 23-member cast, all of the parts are strongly taken. Coburn Goss is a flawed hero, John Proctor, opposite Laura Rook as wife Elizabeth Proctor. Goss' John is properly outraged, which feeds his courage, although we are allowed to see the conflict, while she is steadfast, if worn down by their shared past and the horrors of current events. The religious leaders are Reverend Samuel Parris of Salem, played by David Breitbarth stiff-backed to a fault, and Reverend John Hale of Beverly, played by Gabriel Lawrence, more able to see the reality of what is transpiring and therefore able to bend. The young girls, led by Amanda Fallon Smith as Abigail Williams and Annika Trout as Betty Paris, and including Katie Sah as Susanna Walcott, Jenny Vallancourt as Mercy Lewis, and Sara Linares as Marry Warren, appear to be late teens, early 20s, when in reality most of the girls would be younger. I have never seen a production of this play that didn't run afoul of this problemgirls young enough to be believable simply don't have the ability to play the emotional range required. Matt DeCaro is excellent as Deputy Governor Danforth. Other roles well taken include Danielle Lee Greaves as Tituba, Paul Romero as Thomas Putnam, Peggy Roeder as Rebecca Nurse, and Bruce A. Young as Giles Corey.
Michael Donald Edwards' direction keeps the story fairly clear, no mean feat as there are rivers of complications among the relationships of the town folks, which Miller suggests as the reason for some of the factionalism rampant. The scenic design by Lee Savage focuses the action into claustrophobic areas, perfect to represent the insularity of this Puritan village. Costume design by Tracy Dorman is historically accurate and lighting design by Jen Schriever is evocative, especially in the important scene at John Proctor's farm. This is a big production, one that shows off the technical side of Asolo Rep for all its glory.
Not many theater companies have the resources to mount a creditable production of The Crucible. A local non-professional company, Two Chairs Theatre, tried a mere year and a half ago and proved way short of the challenge. Asolo Rep shows off strongly for the opening of their repertory season. If I found myself slightly less than totally engaged, perhaps it is over familiarity with the play and its opera version by John Ward, which Sarasota Opera did six or seven seasons ago. Sarasota seems to love this play and story.
The Crucible, through March 10, 2019, at the Mertz Theater in the FSU Center, 5555 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota FL. For tickets and information, call the box office at 941-351-8000 or visit www.asolorep.org.
Cast (in order of appearance):