Archikulture Digest

The Crucible

The Crucible

By Arthur Miller

Directed by Frank Hilgenberg

Starring Jamie Kline, Dean Walkuski, Jack Cassidy, Hilty Brown, and Kristen Collins

Theatre Downtown, Orlando FL</strong>

A left to the gut. A right to the jaw. A knee to the groin, and a whisky bottle to the brain box, but you’re still not out of the first act. Arthur’s Miller’s brutal history of false accusations and the failure of justice leaves no victors, only survivors. In puritan Massachusetts, witchcraft was as real as healthcare reform, and once accused, your choices were immediate confession, or torture until you confessed. After all, you really can’t call in Satan’s HR guy to verify your employment to the Dark Lord. Everyone agreed that “A devil cannot overcome a minister” membership in the local church was no defense. It all began when some young girls were caught dancing in the night by Rev Parris (Walkuski) who panics over his reputation. He’s not terribly popular and has what is regarded as too good a deal for a preacher, and his daughter and her friends were caught hanging out with a suspicious Barbadian Tituba (Dominique Williams). She’s black, has a funny accent, and she knows foreign words, so she’s obviously the root of the problem. People start murmuring “witchcraft” and recall stillborns and prickling sensations and constipation and once enough people have heard the phrase, it becomes received wisdom. Someone must pay. Soon accusation fly against Parris’s servant Abigail (Bowen), any number of women named “Goody” and even reclusive John Procter (Kline) and his wife Elizabeth (Collins) are in the dock. Not everyone is convinced Lucifer is the problem, but this is a great time to clear up personal grudges, grab some land, and make your reputation as “hard on sin.”

Enough history. Director Hilgenberg has pulled this large cast together and put up a killer show. (Two people were hospitalized during rehearsal.) As John Procter, Kline shows the hard work, skepticism and distrust of imposed authority that would mark the American frontier for the next two centuries. Collins is meek but persuasive and willing to forgive John’s sins, but she, too is raked over the coals but willing to risk her own pain for his. On the accusatory side, James Cassidy plays the Deputy Governor and Chief Judge Danforth. With an imposing stage presence and ability to stare down anyone who would question his job title, he’s as good a straw man for arbitrary authority. Smaller roles were equally well filled by the likes of John Kelly as the elderly Giles Corey begging for sanity in an insane world, Williams exuberant Tituba, and a pompous Rob DelMedico as assistant judge Hawthorn.

“The Crucible” is a tough play to act, and a tough play to watch. By intermission I was exhausted, and stunned by the time the bows came. Seen as a metaphor for the HUAC hearings of the 1950s, this play is constant reminder about how paranoia and mass hysteria can overtake reasonable people and make them monsters of good intentions. While the Communists and Satanist have faded to quaintly humorous threats, we stand ready to turn against any other group that provides a diffuse threat that we can’t fix with a few UAV raids. Sit though this evening of madness, and you won’t have to waste your time with any of the upcoming candidate’s debates. You will see how they’re trying to lead us, but it’s not too late to shout “baloney!” Someone needs to do it.

For more information on Theatre Downtown, please visit http://www.theatredowntown.net


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