BWW Review: THE CRUCIBLE at Susquehanna Stage Company
The Salem Witch Trials are one of the most tragically disrespected events in (pre-)American history. What began as a vicious assault on innocent life has transformed over the years to a Massachusetts tourist trap and a punchline on shows like "Bewitched". Gratefully, the Susquehanna Stage production of The Crucible restores the gravity and respect that the trials and their victims deserve.
Tom Sharpes plays protagonist John Proctor with a rugged, honesty. Proctor realizes that he is an imperfect man, but desires to restore his reputation in word and deed. Sharpes was very convincing in taking us along on his emotional journey. Rachel Snyder plays the villainous Abigail Williams, a manipulative young woman accuses others of witchcraft for her own personal gain. Snyder draws the perfect balance between tropes of "innocent girl" and "seductive woman".
Duane Hespell portrays Reverend Parris, a local minister who has much to lose if witchcraft runs rampant within his town. Hespell's Parris is sniveling and whiny. This approach worked well when he was kissing up to the judges and wealthy church-goers, but not as much for a preacher known for his ferocious fire and brimstone sermons.
Jordon Ross Weinhold shines as Reverend Hale, the voice of reason in the show. Weinhold puts in an excellent turn as a man of logic, you could easily see his frustration and despair as those around him get caught up in the mania.
Jack Hartman plays an extremely intense and intimidating Deputy Governor Danforth. Danforth serves as the inquisitor who demands answers in this witch trial, even though, it seems at times, his mind is already made up. Hartman comes across as scarier that the witches or anything else that goes bump in the night.
While I do not have the room to comment on every member of this 21 member ensemble cast, a few of the other stand-out parts include a brave Elizabeth Proctor (Madeline Ruth Pickens), a stern Judge Hawthorne (Jim Johnson), and a sympathetic Ann Putnam (Kelly Warren).
Director, Kevin Ditzler keeps the action moving. It is a well-paced show despite its length. I also enjoyed the creepy choice of the recurrent whispering and muttering. Many times it was disorienting, with me not knowing who was whispering, or even where it was coming from.
Technical director, Jason Spickler provides a simple, but very effective set. I was very pleased to see that the actors performed on a raised platform. This was a great improvement over Evita which had some definite sight issues for patrons towards the back. The set also had an abstract stained glass window on the back wall that would change colors and brightness to fit the mood. I found this an interesting choice, but there were a number of times when the lights flickered, turned off, or turned color for no particular reason. I am not sure if these were technical mishaps or symbolism lost on me.
The Crucible is a powerful show and one of Arthur Miller's best. It has a lot to say about who we put our trust in and what happens when people jump to conclusions. Come see this production at Susquehanna Stage for a chilling, yet thoughtful night of theater. Tickets and more info can be found here.