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The Crucible

a Drama
by Arthur Miller

COMPANY : Actor's Express [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Actor's Express [WEBSITE]
ID# 5018

SHOWING : January 21, 2017 - February 19, 2017



The witching hour is at hand in the tight-knit community of Salem. Personal vendettas collide with lust and superstition, fueling widespread hysteria. Do witches walk among us, or has revenge created a monster? As paranoia grips the tiny town, reason takes a back seat to fear – and all hell breaks loose in this visceral new production of Arthur Miller’s riveting masterpiece.

Director Freddie Ashley
Danforth Bryan Davis
Francis Nurse Larry Davis
Abigail Williams Shelli Delgado
Giles Corey Rial Ellsworth
Rebecca Nurse Greta Glenn
Rev. Parris Charles Green
Hathorne Luis Hernandez
Mercy Lewis Abby Holland
John Proctor Jonathan Horne
Elizabeth Proctor Courtney Patterson
Mary Warren Falashay Pearson
Rev. Hale Tamil Periasamy
Ann Putnam Mary Saville
Tituba Vallea E. Woodbury
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Scraps and Tittles
by playgoer
Sunday, January 22, 2017
Arthur Miller’s "The Crucible" is dragged out by theatre companies as a commentary on the current American political situation whenever there’s a polarized and possibly threatening environment. That seems to be at least part of the motivation for Actor’s Express presenting it at this juncture in our country’s history. Luckily, this is a play that also works on its own human terms.

Pamela Hickey’s environmental scenic design places a long wooden platform down the middle of the playing space, splitting the audience into two halves that face one another. A smaller platform exists at the far end, and brick and weathered boards surround the auditorium. Sere tree branches are suspended above the audience, while leaded glass windows are suspended above the stage. It’s an elegant, evocative design, spare and severe like the Puritans inhabiting it, although the smoky atmosphere is perhaps a bit of overkill.

Joseph P. Monaghan III’s lighting design sets the scene with murky blue lighting, both above the stage and under the lip of the central platform. Lights change in intensity and color in conjunction with the action of the play, but only in subtle ways except when a specific effect is demanded. The set and lighting are superbly realized, and A. Julian Verner’s props fit in beautifully with this design.

Ed Thrower’s sound design is also effective, with its somber tones and drawn-out musical phrasing. Much of the sound design acts as underscoring during dialogue, which can be a bit distracting when actors are not projecting strongly, even though the sound level of the underlying music is minimal, albeit with reverberating bass.

Not all the technical aspects of the production are targeted at supporting the text, though. Erik Teague’s attention-stealing costumes are laughable in their steampunky variety. Rather than bringing us in to the days of the Salem witch trials, they shout out "Look at this anachronistic flannel shirt! See these form-fitting pants! Marvel at these cloaks I’ve tossed around the shoulders of various men!" The costumes are, to put it simply, dreadful. Singlehandedly, they drag down the production to the level of a college vanity presentation by an overweening would-be costume designer.

Acting is generally good, but director Freddie Ashley hasn’t gotten the best out of everyone. The girls in the cast are fine, but they’re older than they should be. Shelli Delgado does some nice work in act one as their ringleader Abigail, but her performance suffers somewhat in the second act, primarily due to a clumsily blocked night scene with Jonathan Horne, as John Proctor. Mr. Horne goes all-out in his emotional acting, making the audience feel the full weight of Proctor’s pain, but his speech patterns do not mesh with Arthur Miller’s faux-colonial dialogue, sounding flat and rushed in his early scenes (though not as flat as Sundiata Rush’s speech as Thomas Putnam). Intern Sean Alexander shows a lack of theatrical confidence as drunken warden John Willard.

There’s a lot of good work onstage, but few true standouts. Courtney Patterson is exceptional as always, but in the understated role of Elizabeth Proctor. Charles Green is very strong as Reverend Parris, and Vallea E. Woodbury gives a nice spin to the small, but pivotal role of Tituba. Falashay Pearson adds a touching sweetness to Mary Warren. Tamil Periasamy is the most notable, investing Reverend Hale with palpable power and integrity. Bryan Davis also has power and confidence as Judge Danforth, but mispronounced "tittle" at the preview performance I attended, suggesting a lack of preparation for his role.

Actor’s Express’ production of "The Crucible" lets the power of the story shine through, but no one in the cast seems to be working at the top of their abilities. The production has the feel of something thrown together by a director whose attention was focused on the overall production, leaving his large cast of over 20 actors to their own devices in creating characters that follow his blocking. Sometimes casting talented actors can make a director’s job easy; in this case, Mr. Ashley seems to have assumed his actors would step up to the task of populating the production he had in mind. Unfortunately, much of the production seems to be resonating more in Mr. Ashley’s head than onstage. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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