While playwright Arthur Miller’s original commentary on Senator Joseph McCarthy’s Committee on Un-American Activities has become an historical footnote, The Crucible remains a mainstay of today’s community, high school and college theatre programs. Most people will encounter it several times in their life, but the play manages to avoids the problems of over-saturation because it truly is one of the great classics of American theatre and, because people never change in their essentials, the perspective is relevant in to any prevailing socio-political climate.
Unfortunately, Hayswood Theatre has mounted a production that is as notable for sluggish pace and awkward performances as the script is for timelessness and intelligence. The story of the Salem witch trials, based largely on fact but viewed through the prism of McCarthyism in America circa 1952, is here given a self-conscious reading that undercuts its vitality and power. Many in the cast struggle to move beyond obvious limitations, allowing cues and lines to be dropped in detriment to the production.
Director Ellen Hanaver seems to have a sure understanding of the themes, and has a few capable performers in lead roles, but it just isn’t enough to make the play soar. Allen Platt has some good moments in the early scenes as Reverend Hale, but is unable to sustain the initial good work through the end. Likewise, Corey Macon Long is well-cast as the protagonist, John Proctor, finding the humility and the outrage the character requires, but a rich vocal delivery is not enough to realize the deep moral struggle of the final scene. Jim Aich’s arch, stentorian tone is appropriate to the puritanical authority of Deputy Governor Danforth, but he too misses the humanity that makes the character’s self-righteousness so tragic. These three have done solid work before, and no doubt their efforts here are highly motivated, but they just miss bringing this material fully to life.
Clockwise from Left –Shelley Hanaver-Torrez ,Elizabeth Anderson, Leigh Ballance, Trinity Travis, Emma Dayvault, Kirsten McDowell, and Kathy Norton
The settings and costumes are well-judged (although the judge’s wigs, while perhaps period-appropriate, were silly-looking) and suitably stark, and the blocking is functional and clean through most of the show. The problem resides in actors with good intention, some of whom have looks and presence befitting the characters, but nevertheless find it difficult to deliver Miller’s expert dialogue with enough subtlety and nuance to do it justice. If one is looking for a straightforward production with which to explicate the text, this will suffice, but if you are searching for a rendering of The Crucible that might bring new insight and understanding, this is not the one for you.
The Hayswood Theatre is located at 115 South Capitol Avenue, Corydon, IN 47112. For more information go to www.hayswoodtheatre.com
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