By: Bernard Carragher
December 3, 2019: Bedlam’s production of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible directed by Eric Tucker at the Connelly Theatre in the East Village is a generally strong and stimulating rendering of Mr. Miller’s stunning drama of witchcraft in Salem, Massachusetts in 1692. There is something to admire in its clean, honest excitement and it is so very different from Ivo van Hove’s opaque controversial Broadway revival back in 2016. The Crucible was originally titled Those Familiar Spirits, a vivid reverberation of the McCarthy 1950’s anti-Commmunist doings that stimulated Mr. Miller turning it into a theatrical witch hunt.
Staged in spare settings by John McDermott with appropriate colonial-era garb by Charlotte Palmer-Lane costumes and dazzling lighting that bounces all over the playhouse arena is by Les Dickert. Mr.Tucker seats most of the audience on the Connelly stage and surrounds the playing area below with wooden chairs. All this is shrewdly planned by Mr. Tucker, who has helmed classics like Shaw’s St. Joan and Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, and always brings a unique vision to each production. Here, he has made Miller’s power and glory manifest into action. It is acted with intelligence that flowers ultimately into a kind of frenzy and fury which Miller had in mind.
In Miller’s drama, which is fundamentally factual, the madness begins in the bedroom of the frightened Preacher Parris (Randolph Curtis Rand) when his bewildered Barbados servant girl, Tituba (Shirine Babb), yields to the frenzied pushing of others and sets off the terrible witch hunt into a full cry.
Then, John Proctor (Ryan Quinn), as the good, solid, skeptical farmer confronts his coolly withdrawn wife Elizabeth (Susannah Millonzi) in their home and tries to to cope with her suspicions and his own conscience. When his wife is accused Proctor suddenly becomes an aroused man of understanding and passion. This basic emotional element these people of Salem feel is stirring and brings this Crucible to moments of high and mighty fervor in the courtroom and in the tremendous jail scene which closes the play.
Reverend Hale’s (Director Mr.Tucker doubles as a Bedlam ensemble player) performance as the minister from Beverly is a work of acting craftsmanship. He has moments of sharp intensity, as for instance, when Hale begins to examine John Proctor on his credentials as a Christian. He makes him recite the Ten Commandments, and he can only remembers nine. His wife Elizabeth (Susannah Millonzi) fills in the lacking missing commandment..
With the admirable cast, some who play two or three roles, Mr. Tucker makes sure every line in Miller’s opus is weighted with dramatic meaning and significance. This is true of Paul Lazar as the Deputy Governor Danforth who presides over the Salem trials. Mr. Lazar captures the terrible fanaticism, the Godliness perverted to evil, which is central to the trials. More than the others, he knows and shows how men like Danforth believed they were serving God and driving the devil out of Salem. The play continues at the Connelly Theater through December 29, 2019.
Photography: Ashley Garrett