The Rep turns up the heat with Arthur Miller's 'The Crucible.'

click to enlarge A TORMENTED CONFESSION: Despite his disdain for the Salem witch trials in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, tavernkeeper John Proctor's (Michael Stewart Allen) secret affair places him at the center of the community's frenzy and suspicion. - JOHN DAVID PITTMAN
  • John David Pittman
  • A TORMENTED CONFESSION: Despite his disdain for the Salem witch trials in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, tavernkeeper John Proctor's (Michael Stewart Allen) secret affair places him at the center of the community's frenzy and suspicion.

Just in time for Halloween and Election Day, audiences at the Arkansas Repertory Theatre will be served a hefty portion of witchcraft, social paranoia, political scheming, personal betrayals and principled sacrifice with Arthur Miller's "The Crucible." The 17th century setting in Massachusetts might be timely for Thanksgiving, too, but the community in Salem is a far cry from the coloring-book picture of fellowship we're used to.

There's a reason why "The Crucible," which used the Salem witch trials that turned neighbor against neighbor as an allegory for McCarthyism, sticks with us, a standout against the rest of our high school reading material. It's timelessly relevant, politically charged, thought-provoking literature, but it's also damn good entertainment — quickly paced, tension building, edge-of-your-seat, what's-going-to-happen-next drama.

"There's something about the play taking place in the 17th century that allows you to relate your life to it and draw your own conclusions," Gracyn Mix, who plays protagonist Abigail Williams, said. "Depending on where you are in your life, you'll see different things and have different questions."

As its name suggests, "The Crucible" is all about testing people's faith, ideals and relationships. It's about the testing of a community and the very idea of community, and what happens when trust among neighbors begins to erode. "The writing is so good, and the play is this full community of characters, most of whom have very hard decisions to make of one kind or another," Eric Gilde, who plays young minister Rev. John Hale, said. "It's like a big satisfying meal. People will leave the theater feeling satisfied by it but also excited, wanting to talk more about it afterwards."

Tarah Flanagan, who plays Elizabeth Proctor, whose suspicion that her husband has been an adulterer sets the turmoil in motion, says the members of the cast find themselves immersed in the play's questions, too. "As an actor, what often occupies your thoughts is your craft and your performance, but with this play I think about what I would do if I were Mary Warren. Would I be able to make that decision, weighing the truth against my life?"

Much of the play's action is driven by children, played by some impressive young actors from the Rep's Summer Musical Theater Intensive program. "They bring incredible energy to the room," Mix said.

"They are terrific. I never feel like I have to do anything differently," director Paul Barnes added.

Michael Stewart Allen, who plays John Proctor (and played the title role in The Rep's production of "Macbeth" last year) said, "You can see the play more than once and get something different out of it each time." Allen was excited to be portraying Proctor, who he calls "one of the greatest roles in American literature. He's inherently good, but he's done a terrible thing, and trying to reclaim his goodness in the world."

On the subject of witchcraft, Barnes said, "It's fascinating to try to wrap your mind around the values in the play, coming to terms with the understanding that people really did believe in witchcraft, and the power of evil to infect people."

Ryan McCarthy, who plays Salem minister Rev. Samuel Parris, elaborated. "There's this conception that the Salem witch trials represented a certain amount of ignorance and fear, but these were all very smart people," he said. "People thought and applied very complicated logical arguments to create this worldview and were always searching for the truth. It was interesting to see what motivated Parris, who ends up doing some terrifying things."

It's certainly tempting to project upon "The Crucible" any number of contemporary issues, but Barnes believes that the play digs deeper than that. "I think that can be seen in how so many characters have to contend with something at their very core. The things that define these people, their strongest ideals are tested, and that leads to some very tough decisions." Those decisions lead to varying degrees of damnation and redemption for the characters, and, as many in the cast pointed out, it's easy for us to lay blame on the people of Salem for the horrors committed there hundreds of years ago. Audience members should try to put themselves in the shoes of these characters and ask, what would they have done?

"The Crucible" runs Friday, Oct. 28, through Sunday, Nov. 13. Special events include "Pay Your Age Night" on Sunday, Oct. 30; Stone's Throw Beer Night on Thursday, Nov. 3; and "Sign Interpreter Night" on Wednesday, Nov. 9. More information is available at therep.org/attend/productions/thecrucible.




Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by James Szenher

Readers also liked…

Most Shared

  • World leaders set to meet in Little Rock on resource access and sustainable development

    Next week a series of meetings on the use of technology to tackle global problems will be held in Little Rock by Club de Madrid — a coalition of more than 100 former democratic former presidents and prime ministers from around the world — and the P80 Group, a coalition of large public pension and sovereign wealth funds founded by Prince Charles to combat climate change. The conference will discuss deploying existing technologies to increase access to food, water, energy, clean environment, and medical care.
  • Tomb to table: a Christmas feast offered by the residents of Mount Holly and other folk

    Plus, recipes from the Times staff.
  • Rapert compares Bill Clinton to Orval Faubus

    Sen. Jason Rapert (R-Conway)  was on "Capitol View" on KARK, Channel 4, this morning, and among other things that will likely inspire you to yell at your computer screen, he said he expects someone in the legislature to file a bill to do ... something about changing the name of the Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport.
  • Fake news

    So fed up was young Edgar Welch of Salisbury, N.C., that Hillary Clinton was getting away with running a child-sex ring that he grabbed a couple of guns last Sunday, drove 360 miles to the Comet Ping Pong pizzeria in Washington, D.C., where Clinton was supposed to be holding the kids as sex slaves, and fired his AR-15 into the floor to clear the joint of pizza cravers and conduct his own investigation of the pedophilia syndicate of the former first lady, U.S. senator and secretary of state.
  • Reality TV prez

    There is almost nothing real about "reality TV." All but the dullest viewers understand that the dramatic twists and turns on shows like "The Bachelor" or "Celebrity Apprentice" are scripted in advance. More or less like professional wrestling, Donald Trump's previous claim to fame.

Latest in A&E Feature

Visit Arkansas

View Trumpeter Swans in Heber Springs

View Trumpeter Swans in Heber Springs

Magness Lake, in Heber Springs, is a magnet for swans

Event Calendar

« »


  1 2 3
4 5 6 7 8 9 10
11 12 13 14 15 16 17
18 19 20 21 22 23 24
25 26 27 28 29 30 31

Most Viewed

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Resurrection, reflection

    • http://hairtransplantncr.com/ hair transplant in delhi hair transplant ncr hair transplant cost hair transplant cost in…

    • on December 8, 2016

© 2016 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation