By Arthur Miller
Directed by John DiDonna
Starring Cory Boughton, Michael Martin, Shannon McGough, and Bobby Bell
Valencia Character Company, Orlando FL</strong>
Having driven route 128 in Massachusetts, I’m not convinced the whole state isn’t still in league with Satan. Perhaps the infection began a third of a millennia ago when Indian attacks were a living memory and the word of God was the ultimate judicial precedent. Under a looming wooden beam that threatened to crush us all, Reverend Parris (Keith Kurlin) struggles to hold his position. While Harvard educated and stamped “Satan Proof” by the Anglicans, his education holds little sway on the frontier and his insistence on gold candle sticks to serve the Lord ruffles local feathers. His daughter Betty (Gina Makarova) and her friend Abigail (McGough) take off to the woods with Tituba (Penny Middleton) to practice some Barbados dancing and quaff a few potions. Innocent fun? Or the opening Lucifer needs to slip into proper New England society. Parris catches the girls, Betty fakes a coma and soon grievances over lands and lawsuits blossom into a full fledge witch hunt, presided over by the Expert From Away John Hale (Martin) and Hanging Judge Danforth (Bell). Soon even respected free thinker John Proctor (Boughton) and his wife Elizabeth (Jennifer Jarakas) are sentenced to hang for the crime not knowing all Ten Commandments in order.
While director DiDonna has abandoned light comedy for railing at us as thunderbolts crash down around him, he can still whip us into frenzy with this portrait of injustice, superstition and prejudice. When called upon, the young girls howl like banshees and faint in unison. Procter, while a flawed is still a good man, and whatever sins sour his home is his business, and dragging them into the light does no one any good. Parris is climbing and self righteous, while Hale can swallow his doubts until a dozen people have died by his own hand. He at least repents and attempts to change his ways, but Bell’s Judge Danforth is not swayed by mercy, forgiveness, or coerced testimony. If God almighty refuses mercy to sinners he certainly isn’t either. He would have made a great Jesuit. Stunning supporting actors abound from the reserved Jarackas as Mrs. Proctor to the amateur lawyer Giles Cory (Hood Roberts) and the looming Hopkins (Jesse Millican) as the jailer and all around enforcer.
Our dark times are bringing out an equally dark streak on stage, this was my second witch burning play this week and the last local production of “Crucible” hasn’t faded from mind. In this production, the smell of hysteria reeked strong, the venal motivation of land and status clearly shown, and we fear the out of hand hysteria young women that drive their parent into the darkest recess of our collective souls. We may look back smugly on those colonial days, but hysteria and gang attacks in the media still sweep our digitally connected world, ruing lives and careers. If you doubt me, send me you name and I will whisper the curse of death “kiddie porn.” That’s all it takes to ruin someone today, and none of us is more than a thumb drive away from jail.
For more information on Valencia Character Company, please visit http://www.valenciacc.edu/arts/