note: entire contents copyright 2007 by Beverly Creasey
The Roxbury Repertory Theatre’s moving production of THE CRUCIBLE would surely please Arthur Miller. The themes are crystal clear and this remarkable multi-cultural cast makes each and every character unique. When I remember other productions of Miller’s colonial “witch hunt,” the characters all blur together, as if one Puritan were interchangeable with another---especially when just about everyone in town is accused by the Salem House on Unnatural Activities Committee. Oh, and you can add President Bush’s practice of “rendition” to the play’s resonance, now.
Director Robbie McCauley gets vivid performances from her cast despite some acoustic problems in the cavernous Roxbury Community College theater space (which could be helped by playing the action closer to the lip). The Repertory Company brings students from Boston Latin, Emerson, and RCC together with seasoned actors for a multi-generational mix which serves to enrich the material: What a joy to see actors-of-a-certain-age playing their age!
McCauley’s clever, subtle touches—like letting us, not just the tightly wrapped Reverend, see the hysterical dancing in the woods---and Mirta Tocci’s evocative pen & ink sketches of organic forms (projected at the back of the stage) make this production especially arresting.
Jim Burkholder is the intense “fire and brimstone” preacher who bellows like Orson Welles and would scare even the most pious of penitents. Jenene M. Cook is an elegant, and affecting Tituba, teaching the impressionable girls to swing their hair about in a most un-Puritan fashion. Lauren Shear lays on the vengeance as the schemer who brings down the noble John Proctor (played with fierce inner strength by Chris Wrenn).
Julie Dapper gives a stunning performance as Mrs. Proctor, as does Lauren Keane-Farrell, as the courageous teen who defies Shear’s leadership, only to succumb to Walter Locke’s chilling deputy governor. Nick Neyeloff supplies welcome humor as a cagey old coot and Fran Renehan supplies the backbone as a frail elderly lady who will not bend to the corrupt court.
Greg Francis has a touching scene where his trust in the law is betrayed. But it is David Curtis as the Reverend John Hale who soars as the conscience of the piece. His powerful presence sets the tone for the play and grounds it in reason when everyone else has lost theirs.