Thursday, February 14, 2008

The Crucible

photo: Schoolhouse Theater

Who could say how many thousands of young girls have sprung up from their seats to shout "I saw Goody Proctor with the Devil!" since Arthur Miller's classic Salem witch hunt drama premiered? Oft-performed all over the country at all levels of proficiency, the play has endured beyond its shelf life as an indictment of the McCarthy trials of the 1950's and surely stands as the most popular, widely-read American play to caution against theocracy. (Really, is there anything else that comes close that is assigned reading year after year for the average public high schooler?) It's partly because the play is so familiar and so often seen that this production's most distinguishing directorial touch is so effective: all of the actors in the ensemble sit on either side of the stage when not needed in a scene, as if they form a community that has come together in ritual to tell us this story. This conceit also suggests, as echoed by the set design, that all the settings of the play from bedroom to courtroom are public spaces when Church and State are enmeshed. The production, transferred from Westchester's Schoolhouse Theater and currently enjoying a limited run on the Upper West Side, is effective and finally wrenching as it should be, thanks in part to the play's especial revelance in this election season (Mike Huckabee, anyone?) and in part of course to some very good performances from key members of the ensemble.

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