Bishon Prushankin as Abigail Williams in THE CRUCIBLE at Playcrafters of Skippack.

Salem Witch Trials Reborn in THE CRUCIBLE at Playcrafters

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THE CRUCIBLE, a 1953 play by Arthur Miller, is an adaptation of the Salem Witch Trials in 1692. Miller wrote the play as an allegory of McCarthyism which engulfed the country in the early 50’s, and was himself cited for Contempt of Congress for refusing to offer testimony before the House of Representatives Committee on Un-American Activities. It is this allegory that makes this story relevant even today, and Playcrafters of Skippack has brought the characters and the story back to life.

Philip Seader as Rev. Hale, Andrea Westby as Tituba in THE CRUCIBLE, running at Playcrafters thru Sept 6.

Philip Seader as Rev. Hale, Andrea Westby as Tituba in THE CRUCIBLE, running at Playcrafters thru Sept 6.

The play opens in the bedroom of Betty Parris (Gillian Williams), young daughter of the Reverend Parris (Eric Rupp.) Betty is unresponsive, and Reverend Parris is under pressure to declare the presence of witchcraft. He summons Reverend Hale (Philip Seader) to attempt to debunk these fears, but Hale is concerned by the testimony of several people, including Hale’s niece Abigail Williams (Bishon Prushankin) and the servant Tituba (Andrea Westby), who is accused of conjuring the Devil. As Abigail and other children accuse other townspeople of working with the Devil, Deputy Governor Danforth (Ben Fried) is summoned to try the accused and eliminate the threat to Salem.

Director Curtis Cockenberg, Jr. has assembled a very solid cast in this production. Rupp is every bit the self-serving politician, almost slimy in his characterization of Parris. Prushankin is manipulative and devious as Williams, her motives anything but pure. Anthony Marsala portrays John Proctor as a man about to explode with the pressure of tying to atone for one stolen night of passion, and Carly Fried (Elizabeth Proctor) is the wife who is trying to find her way back to her husband, despite her pain. Ben Fried (Danforth) is haughty, self-assured, and unbending.

The rest of the large cast is equally consistent and proper with their characters.The minimal set allows for quick scene changes, and the pace moves along well. The cast is well-drilled on the action, with very little wasted time or motion. There is a tendency for seated cast members to stand prior to delivering lines, then sitting again…not necessary, and a bit distracting at times…but the focus remains on those that need to be heard.

Eric Rupp as Rev. Parris, Anthony Marsala as John Proctor.

Eric Rupp as Rev. Parris, Anthony Marsala as John Proctor.

This was a cast that was desperately in need of an audience. One of the differences between amateur and professional theatre is the relative absence of preview performances, which gives the cast the feel of how their production plays before a live crowd. With continued work in front of live audiences, this production will grow, some of the rough edges will smooth out.

I enjoyed this production, the performances were consistent and solid, the story compelling. It is a long evening (approaching 3 hours with intermission) so be prepared for this, but it never gets boring. It’s a perfect production for Skippack, which has an older-world feel to it, well worth the visit to 17th century Salem.

 by Arthur Miller
Directed by Curtis Cockenberg, Jr.
August 21-September 6, 2014
Playcrafters of Skippack
2011 Store Rd
Skippack, PA 19474


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Walter Bender

Walter Bender

Walter Bender is a veteran of over 35 years performing all over the country. He attended Texas Lutheran University as a Theatre Arts and Vocal Performance major. While in college he toured much of the Southern and Western states with various acting and singing groups. He appeared briefly on radio in San Antonio and on TV in Miami while in college. Moving back to PA, he has performed in well over 100 amateur and professional theatrical productions, and directed dozens more throughout the Mid-Atlantic region. Among his favorite roles are Lt. Colonel Jessup (A Few Good Men), Daddy Warbucks (Annie), and most recently he was George in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Arguably his favorite theatrical memory was creating the role of Alan Frick in A Fast Train to Heaven for Bill Gottshall Productions. He is co-founder of Spring-Ford Community Theater, has served as Managing Director of 2 different theaters, Artistic Director of a third and President of another. He worked for the Delaware Valley Arts Institute, where he worked with many wonderful artists and instructors, culminating in being selected to facilitate a post-graduate course at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. Currently he serves on the board of directors for dcp theatre as their Director of Corporate Communications.

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