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A CurtainUp Review
Director Eric Tuckere keeps his production a simple, precise, and up close and personal. Some audience members, in fact, are seated right in the playing area, only inches from the action. But whether seated on stage or on a riser, all definitely will feel part of the conversation that heats up to a feverish pitch as one scene melts into the next.
Psalms probe the soul more swiftly than anything else in this play, and this version Crucible drives this phenomenon home with aplomb. To wit: A bedridden Betty is seen at center stage early on in Act 1, with a handful of townspeople seated slightly upstage of her, fervently singing a psalm. But as the words “going up to Jesus” waft through the air, the comatose Betty suddenly sits upright and breaks into a paroxysm of screams. One of the town's residents quickly interjects: “The psalm! The psalm! She cannot bear to hear the Lord's name.” Indeed, religion, witchcraft, and human passions all intersect in this play and the shifting balance among the three make for some mighty high drama.
The acting is at its best with Ryan Quinn and Susannah Millonzi, performing the key roles of John Proctor and his wife Elizabeth Proctor. In the closing scene they bare their souls to each other, and you will know why Miller's historical drama has carved its own niche in theater history.
Quinn and Millonzi aren't the only watchable actors on stage, however. Tucker, who does double-duty as an actor here, acquits himself well as Reverend John Hale who arrives on the scene with an armful of heavy tomes on witchcraft after being summoned to Salem to determine if the Devil's work is afoot there. Tucker inhabits his character with a blending of scholarly wisdom and fanaticism. But his Hale is altogether a man of his day.
Truett Felt, playing the dissembling Abigail, is competent throughout but won't persuade you that she once had a steamy affair with John Proctor and still harbors the illusion that she will be his wife in the future. Felt is attractive enough to play the budding siren but unfortunately doesn't project the requisite passion. The rest of the ensemble are serviceable in their parts. But nobody holds a light to Quinn and Millonzi, whose characters shine brilliantly in the shadowlands of Salem.
The creative team have remarkably solved how to make a 3-hour production move along at a brisk clip. McDermott's minimalist set, lit by Les Dickert, has only a few sticks of furniture scattered around the stage. But it's still astonishing how nimbly the whole cast transform a bedroom in Reverend Samuel Parris' house . . . to the common room of John Proctor's house . . to the vestry of the Salem Meeting House . . . to a cell in Salem jail.
The current Crucible at the Connolly Theater isn't a pull-out-the-stops production by any theatrical standard. In fact, there's no special effects to astonish you or museum-quality clothes (costumes by Charlotte Palmer-Lane) to “ooh” and “ah” over. But it is a vigorous reworking of Miller's play , and a real opportunity to recalibrate the drama to our own troubling times.
For more about Arthur Miller and plays reviewed at Curtainup, see the Miller page in our Playwright album
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The Crucible by Arthur Miller
Directed by Eric Tucker
Cast: Shirine Babb, Rajesh Bose, Truett Felt, Caroline Grogan, Paul Lazar, Susannah Millonzi, Arash Mokhtar, Ryan Quinn, Randolph Curtis Rand, Zuzanna Szadkowski, Shaun Taylor-Corbett, and John Terry, and Eric Tucker.
Sets: John McDermott
Costumes: Charlotte Palmer-Lane, Lighting design: Les Dickert
Stage Manager: Diane Healy
The Connolly Theater, 220 East 4th Street. Tickets: $59 and up. Phone 646-343-1584 or online at www.Bedlam.org
From 11/08/19; opening 11/21/19; closing 12/29/19.
Tuesday through Saturday @ 8pm; Saturday and Sunday matinee @ 2pm. An additional performance has been added on Monday 12/23/19. No performances on 12/24/19 or 12/25/19.
Running time: 3 hours with one intermission.
Reviewed by Deirdre Donovan based on press performance of 12/10/19
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