The Crucible is one of my favourite plays. It was written with courage in a time of fear. Miller parallels McCarthyism with the Salem witch trials remarkably, if not particularly subtly. Writing such a play had serious consequences for Miller, as he was brought before the House of Representatives’ Committee on Un-American Activities in 1956. This only adds to the gravitas with which the play ought to be treated, and I think this production recognized that well.
I was very impressed with the aesthetics of the play. The setting of St Hilda’s JDP worked well, as they did not attempt to cover the bare bricks and wood. The sparse props and stage settings, with tables and chairs serving only functional purposes, further accentuated this puritan simplicity. The costumes (Sarah Trolley and Sanjana Shah) work perfectly in the context of puritan 17th century America: everyone is clad in monochrome, apart from Abigail (Mary Higgins), who wears a dress of deep burgundy. She also sports blood red lipstick, which works particularly well.
My first impressions concerned me, however. The loud beat that begun the play sounded a little too much like house music for a 17th century setting, but the strangeness of the first scene was well conveyed. Sadly, they also chose to play the same music at the end of the play. It drowned out Elizabeth’s (Alice Gray) last, poignant line, and left the end of the play feeling entirely flat. One of my only other concerns was the use of accents. It was inconsistent, with some trying and succeeding, others failing, and some not trying at all. I think the play would have not suffered if the accents were lost altogether.
This was truly a shame, because the acting was, on the whole, superb. Higgins’ Abigail was complex; she played her forcefully, with a conviction that conveyed power, but didn’t allow this to overcome the fact she was playing a young girl, who felt betrayed and hurt.
David Meijers’ John Proctor was also excellent. The audience started with no sympathy for him, but slowly and very deliberately, Meijers turned Proctor into a symbol of courage, even if it was not enough to redeem him. His interactions with Gray were heartfelt, and appropriately moving. In particular, his delivery of the famous line “You bring down heaven and raise up a whore!” was perfectly delivered. Gray herself presented well a meek and humble Elizabeth, who was by no means pathetic. The Putnams (Kristztina Rakoczy and Richard Grummitt) were suitably irritating, and Bee Liese’s (Betty Parris) scream was bone-chilling; it truly changed the tone of the play.
The scenes with the girls crying out in the courtroom, and pretending to be bewitched, were well staged and very convincing. Marshall Herrick (Soham Bandyopadhyay) perhaps shouted a little too much, which meant that some of the emphasis was lost on a few lines; however, his convincing portrayal of a man stuck between wanting to do his job and convict witches, and seeing the flaws exposed by Proctor more than readily made up for this.
Overall, it was a good, straight production of an excellent play. The beginning and ending may have been let down by a poor choice of music, but the impressive talent of the actors allowed this play to shine as an example of how well-directed student drama should be performed.