Directed by Chris Maher
Produced by Infamous Commonwealth Theatre
At Raven Theatre’s West Studio
Worthy production of Miller’s cautionary tale is still relevant today
“Because it is my name! Because I cannot have another in my life! Because I lie and sign myself to lies! Because I am not worth the dust on the feet of them that hang! How may I live without my name? I have given you my soul; leave me my name!”
—John Proctor’s Act IV explanation of why he cannot confess to witchcraft to save himself from the gallows.
Infamous Commonwealth Theatre opens its season of “Redemption” with a cautionary tale by a master playwright. Arthur Miller’s 1952, The Crucible, is his reaction to the thought-control lead by Senator Joe McCarthy and his anti-communist House Un-American Activities Committee witch hunt. Miller always strives to inquire into the heart of the American character. Here he has penned a passionate, searing and eloquent melodrama.
Set in 17th Century Salem in Plymouth Colony, The Crucible deals with a group of teenage girls who defy the religious and social norm of the day by conjuring spirits through dance and pagan forest ritual. These exercises leave Betty Paris (Glynis Gilio) comatose from psychosomatic suggestion. The Reverend Paris (Stephen Dunn) tries to hide his daughter’s condition but the village has no secrets. Abigail Williams (Elaine Ivy Harris) is the evil, twisted lying teen who instigates and maneuvers the teens to accuse others in an attempt to hide their actions. The result is a frantic explosion of religious extremism. Dozens of folks are accused of witchcraft and an atmosphere of fear, intolerance and hysteria unfolds.
The Reverend Hale (Cody Proctor) comes to Salem as a minister/investigator for the colony’s courts. He emerges as the only voice of reason and compassion during this fearful time. A farmer, John Proctor (the powerfully Craig C. Thompson) tries to stay out of the events but his involvement with Abigail and Mary Warren (Nancy Friedrich) and his love for his wife, Elizabeth, (Jennifer Mathews) doesn’t allow him to escape the witch hunt. When Elizabeth is arrested, Proctor must take action to defend his wife.
The Deputy Governor Danforth (Edward Kuffert in an intensely scary turn) has everyone intimidated. Only the Reverend Hale and John Proctor effectively challenge the demigod Deputy. Injustice, hysteria, religious fanaticism reign in this most emotionally and expertly acted ensemble-driven production. The Crucible is Arthur Miller’s cautionary tale that warns Americans to guard against over reaction to social crisis. When the Deputy demands that witnesses be investigated, they are ordered to “name names” as to who practices witchcraft. Most Salem’s residents are fearful and acquiesce. The Reverend Hale and John Proctor alone—with Proctor making the heroic moral stand highlight the drama.
Miller’s writing in good hands with this cast. My only problem is with some of the young women who speak too fast and run their words together making them hard to understand. Craig C. Thompson, Jennifer Mathews, Nancy Friedrich and Edward Kuffert were particularly effective. Rachel M. Sypniewski’s period-accurate costumes were a delight. This ensemble reached the proper level of truth to make the show worthy.
At Raven Theatre, 6157 N. Clark, Chicago, IL, call 312-458-9780, tickets $20, students/seniors $15, Thursdays thru Saturdays at 8:30 pm, Sundays at 3:30 pm, running time is 2 hours, 40 minutes with intermission.