THE THEATER MIRROR, Boston's LIVE Theater Guide


entire contents copyright & copy; 1996, 1967 by THE THEATER MIRROR

"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

Reviews of Current Productions

note: entire contents copyright 1996 by Larry Stark

"The Crucible"

by Arthur Miller
Directed by Paul Campbell
Produced by Sarah Scanlon

Set Design by Steve Orr
TV/Video by Kevin Gracey, Bill Shamlian
Lighting Design by Heidi Hinkel
Costume Design by Sheralyn Levy
Stage Manager Julie Ganz

Betty Parris......Michelle Griffitha
Rev. Samuel Parris......Newell Young
Tituba....................Awet Teame
Abigail Williams...........Kate Luhr
Susanna Wallcott...Gabrielle Hatcher
Mrs. Ann Putnam.......Sally Stratman
Thomas Putnam...........Mike Kiernan
Mercy Lewis.........Meghan McDonough
Mary Warren..........Dannyelle Zywan
John Proctor.......Paul O'Shaugnessy
Rebecca Nurse......Genevieve Allison
Giles Corey..........Michael Bradley
Rev. John Hale......John Schnatterly
Elizabeth Proctor..Michelle Aguillon
Francis Nurse........Kenneth Leavitt
Ezekiel Cheever......David Brillhart
John Willard.............Ralph Bowen
Judge Hathorne........Sean Kilbridge
Deputy-Gov. Danforth....Kevin Gracey
Sarah Good...............Gail Debiak
Hopkins....................Karl Levy

Familiar, classic plays tend to get frozen into stereotypical productions, and need to be shaken loose occasionally. Thus the Footlight Club's Paul Campbell decided to strip Arthur Miller's "The Crucible" of either its expected setting of the Salem witch-trials of 1692 or it metaphorical setting in the McCarthy witch-hunts of 1952, just to see what might survive. The result is bare-bones abstraction in which the set-piece scenes in courtroom and gallows play out eloquently, but little else catches fire.

Sheralyn Levy's costumes dresses farmers and their wives in identically cut and colored coveralls, clergymen largely in white, government lawyers in black --- while the adolescent girls whose frenzies bring on the crisis sport biker-leathers and chains and punk-ugly hair and face-paint. Steve Orr's bleached grey minimalist sets, all straight lines and flat, unadorned surfaces, are all right-angles and emptines.

The result is often a cast stranded on the bridge of the Starship Enterprise with only faces and hands to express character. Turning books into laptop computers and putting the face of Deputy-Governor Danforth into an overhead television-set only calls attention to all the period-reference details in the script, which retains "Goodman" Proctor and "Goody" Nurse, refers to a wagonload of lumber, and demands a signature on a floppy-disk "a print-out from which" is to be nailed to the church door. Whatever updatings that don't get in the way never help the proceedings either.

In general, with no concrete details of time and place either to hide behind or use, the cast has nothing to work with but the text. Mostly they stand hands at sides mouthing the words, or stand waiting for cues. In the pivot-roles of Reverend Hale and Mary Warren, John Schnatterly and Dannyelle Zywan embody a strong and a weak reaction to the crisis. Michelle Aguillon and especially Paul O'Shaugnessy, as Elizabeth and John Proctor, particularly in their final scene, transcend all obstacles and give the ring of truth. The work of these four seem to call forth equal fire from whomever is onstage with them.

Arthur Miller's play follows a predictable slide during which first real [witches] then reformed [witches] then fellow- travellers with [witches] then protesting accused [witches] and then the mere defenders of accused [witches] are all denounced, accused and punnished if they cannot or will not witness against those called guilty --- until the court must hang the only honest man of courage in the town lest their zeal for public purity seem to have been in any way unjust. In Paul Campbell's production, this slide seems precipitously, and predictably, abstract.



7a Eliot Street, JAMAICA PLAIN
till 1 March

THE THEATER MIRROR, Boston's LIVE Theater Guide