Cappies Review: The Crucible
Three towering crosses stood silhouetted against a backdrop of cool blue while beneath them raged a desperate battle for truth. Their silent presence, even through the treachery and pain that occurred before them, added an ominous touch to Washington-Lee High School’s production of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible.
The Crucible was written by Arthur Miller and first performed in 1953. The play used the story of the Salem Witchcraft trials of the late 17th century as an allegory for the ongoing McCarthy trials, where the United States government blacklisted and destroyed the lives of people they believed to be Communists. In The Crucible, citizens of Salem, Massachusetts are singled out as witches by a small group of young girls, who seem to be afflicted by otherworldly spirits. When the leader of the girls, Abigail Williams (Amy Sheahan) accuses farm wife Elizabeth Proctor (Audrey Bowler) of witchcraft, Elizabeth’s husband John Proctor (Jeffrey Warren) begins to vocalize his opinion that the girls’ claims are not all that they seem to be.
Although the stage was bare or simply furnished for much of the play, three immense crosses sat in the background atop a base of smaller, broken crosses. This set (Jill Luoma-Overstreet, Lukas Eigler-Harding, Nina Troy) showed the power and corruption of the church in Salem and lent the show a constant sense of foreboding. This feeling supplemented the performance of the actors, who, despite the occasional struggle to fully understand the nuances of the script, tackled the piece with energy and ferocity.
As John Proctor, Jeffrey Warren shined with his strong control of the script’s language. Each word that came from his lips was fresh and clear, and his emotions had a clear, natural arc that flowed from moment to moment. Audrey Bowler, playing Elizabeth Proctor, brought a strong dynamic to the show that was sometimes missing elsewhere. At the beginning of the play, Bowler made clear the tension between the Proctors with a cold tone and reserved physicality. She was able to transform this into distress and agony as events unfolded in Salem.
Amy Sheahan’s performance as Abigail Williams was unrelenting. With an assertive voice and a willingness to encroach on her fellow performers’ space, she gave one of the most energetic performances of the night. Another actress with consistent vigor was Jill Luoma-Overstreet as Ann Putnam, another instigator of the witchcraft trials. Luoma-Overstreet’s energy was supplanted with a touch of sadness; her anguish was real and avoided an artificiality that was sometimes seen among other performers.
One of the most moving aspects of the evening was the lighting (Henry Conklin, Paul Soutter, Jo Claire Constantz). The lights had delicate touches of color that emphasized, without distracting from, the events occurring onstage. In one scene, the lighting transitioned so subtly from a dull, gray morning to a vibrant, pink dawn that it seemed entirely natural and believable. At times the lights were even symbolic, such as one moment when the crosses were lit from behind with a blinding white light.
Washington-Lee High School’s production of The Crucible brought a truly terrible age in human history to life with energy and determination, creating a world that was frightening and chaotic.
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