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.
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.
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