Theatre Mirror Reviews - "The Crucible"

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England’s LIVE Theater Guide


"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

Reviews of Current Productions

note: entire contents copyright 2003 by Carl A. Rossi


by Arthur Miller
directed and designed by John Fogle

Betty Parris … Allie Theriault
Rev. Samuel Parris … Stephen Cooper
Tituba … Dianne Chalifour
Abigail Williams … Victoria Engelmayer
Susanna Wallcott … Casey Sussman
Ann Putnam … Doreen Marquis
Thomas Putnam … Edgar Johns
Mercy Lewis … Suzanne Wyman
Mary Warren … Erin Boyle
John Proctor … Dave Rich
Rebecca Nurse … Janet Raskin
Giles Corey … Robert Stewart
Rev. John Hale … Kevin Walker
Elizabeth Proctor … Julie Korzenik
Francis Nurse … James Robinson
Ezekiel Cheever … Jason Rabin
John Willard … Bob Karish
Judge Hathorne … Craig Owen
Deputy-Governor Danforth … Jim Butterfield
Sarah Good … Doreen Marquis

A Note from playwright Arthur Miller, included in the program:

I want to wish the cast and crew of the Salem Theatre Company’s production of THE CRUCIBLE all the best luck with the show, and I wish the very best to the STC with its future endeavors. You’re doing a great thing for the city of Salem. I look forward to hearing how the show goes and staying updated about your future activities.

Sincerely yours,

Arthur Miller

* * *

Mr. Miller would enjoy The Salem Theatre Company’s production of THE CRUCIBLE in this, their inaugural season: director John Fogle, assisted by artists, staff and volunteers from the North Shore area, comes up with some good, solid theatre and has staged it in the very town where THE CRUCIBLE’s action takes place --- how’s that for authenticity?

THE CRUCIBLE, of course, is based on the witch hysteria that swept the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1692; what began with two girls’ antics led to scores of people being accused of devil worship and ended with nineteen being hung on Gallows Hill in Salem Town; others, dying in prison; one, being crushed to death. Mr. Miller wrote his play during the Communist Scare of the early 1950s --- a brave act in itself --- and it is to his credit that THE CRUCIBLE stands powerfully on its own today without being seen only as an attack on McCarthyism though he does short-change history, somewhat: instead of showing the hysteria being the result of Puritanical repression, ignorance and fanaticism (all those bottled-up passions had to be released, somehow), Mr. Miller boils it down to young Abigail Williams stirring up trouble in Salem for being rejected by John Proctor, her married lover --- still, in an age of two-character, politically-correct plays, what pleasure it is to watch CRUCIBLE’s townspeople go at each other with hammer and tong in a work created for the stage and showing no signs of cinematic influence! (Young playwrights, please take note.)

Last summer, Mr. Fogle directed and designed a superb production of OUR COUNTRY’S GOOD for the Mugford Street Players in Marblehead (four of his COUNTRY players have followed him to town); here, Mr. Fogle works some of his magic with the fledgling STC company: a few of his actors look and act convincingly Puritanical (i.e., Julie Korzenik’s deceptively fragile Elizabeth Proctor and Janet Raskin’s kindly, worn Rebecca Nurse) and he has placed them in a simple, stark setting somewhere between the Expressionistic and the shoestring. Scene One is the company’s warm up --- the mumbling Tituba is incomprehensible; the growing terror of the townspeople is loosely orchestrated (a nice touch, though: the Reverend’s afflicted daughter is first glimpsed as two arms rising up from her bed then sinking down below view again); the production stirs with Dave Rich’s one-note Proctor (the man is ever on a rant) and comes to quick fruition with Jim Butterfield, Mr. Fogle’s longtime collaborator, in the pivotal role of Deputy-Governor Danforth who presides over the witch trials. Often cast in small roles in Boston but a proven leading man elsewhere, Mr. Butterfield is a valued addition to any cast; though his stage persona is a solemn, even graven, one, I continue to be amazed at his range: earlier this year, cast against type, Mr. Butterfield turned Tom Stoppard’s ARCADIA into a BBC romp for the Arlington Friends of the Drama; here, he is chilling as Danforth, a crafty, merciless man wearing a mask of unenlightened authority --- Mr. Butterfield proves to be the spark in this CRUCIBLE’s tinderbox, igniting his fellow players into becoming an ensemble, especially John Proctor’s two young betrayers: Victoria Engelmayer, the Abigail, is but a brat when around her Proctor; when pitted against Danvers in Scene Three, Ms. Engelmayer matches Mr. Butterfield in steely cunning (there’s a thrilling moment when they coldly stare each other down) and leaves us with a harrowing portrait of Evil incarnate. In contrast, Erin Boyle’s Mary Warren --- a stiff ninny in Scene Two --- becomes a terrified innocent when caught between Danvers and Abigail’s (verbal) grinding tools.

Prior to this production, I had never been to Salem: on the night I attended, the sleeping town was wrapped in black, bare-branched trees vainly grabbed at their leaves that ran into the streets while twinkles of light peeped from houses sealed up from the cold. A most atmospheric setting for the STC’s CRUCIBLE; I would not be surprised if Mr. Fogle had a scenic hand in it….

"The Crucible" (6-22 November)
St. Peter’s Church Parish Hall, St. Peter’s Street, SALEM, MA
1 (978) 790-8546

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England’s LIVE Theater Guide