BWW Feature: THE CRUCIBLE at Palm Canyon Theatre
Arthur Miller's American classic, The Crucible, is being presented this weekend by Palm Canyon Theatre, and it is relevant as more than just a precursor to Halloween's witches. Written in 1953 as a protest against Joseph McCarthy's persecution of anyone he decided was a Communist, it is a timely warning today to base decisions on fact and common sense, not hysteria.
Immediately prior to the play's opening, a group of girls (Gracie Van Dijk, Ava Tethal, Natalia Fernandez and Makaila Smith) have been observed dancing naked in the woods, apparently invoking some witchlike spell. They were led by Abigail Williams (Kaiya Treash) and a Caribbean servant, Tituba (Kaia Greer). The play opens with one girl's father, The Rev. Samuel Parish (Luke Rainey), trying to get the girls to confess. The matter escalates, and witch hunter Rev. John Hale (Mark Almy) is brought to Salem, becoming the chief antagonist.
The girls implicate as many as 40 women in Salem as practicing witchcraft, and there's Miller's analogy to McCarthy's labeling hundreds of people as reds (including Miller himself).
John Proctor (Sean Timothy Brown), a local farmer, is the play's protagonist. He becomes involved when his wife, Elizabeth (Phylica Mason), is accused and taken from their home. We learn that Abigail had previously been a servant in their home, and was let go when it was revealed that she and John had an affair.
The second act includes a trial, presided over by Deputy Danforth (a very strong Frank Catale), who refuses to allow evidence to be introduced because given the "invisible nature of witchcraft," the word of the accused and their advocates cannot be trusted - the sort of reasoning that might be espoused in Washington today! John Proctor features strongly in the resolution of the play.
The work is epic in scope, with a cast of 22 and five scenes, though director Dr. William Layne has kept the production lively and interesting. Designer J. W. Layne has settled for simple pieces of furniture in front of projections to handle the numerous sets, and as always, Derek Shopinski's costumes bring an appropriate sense of time and place to the work.
The Crucible will be presented for four performances only: October 10, 11, 12 and 13. Tickets and further information are available at www.palmcanyontheatre.org, or by phoning 760-323-5123.
Photo by Paul Hayashi