The Crucible at The Connelly Theater is aptly put on by Bedlam Productions in association with Nora Ensemble. This Crucible is frenetic to say the least. Under wonderful direction by Eric Tucker, the play moves for the most part quite quickly and smoothly. The Crucible is oddly enough the most read play by the legendary playwright, Arthur Miller. I say oddly because Miller's Death of a Salesman was required reading in High School. Arthur Miller has had many great bodies of work; The Master Builder; All My Sons; The Ride Down Mount Morgan and many more that make him arguably the best American Playwright ever (Tennessee Williams, Sam Shepard and Eugene O'Neil are the others often mention along with Earnest Hemingway).
In Miller's The Crucible he presents a different genre than a lot of his works. This play deals with Salem Massachusetts and the herd mentality of people. What started out as an investigation, accusations of four girls dancing in the woods turns out to be a full fledged investigation which leads to the hanging of many people. Miller deftly brings out how irrational people can be; false accusations with people lying to get what they want, (reminds me of what is going on in Washington DC today). In Salem, this purist town goes to the extreme in accusing people of being witches, playing with the Devil and doing these that are not only forbidden at this time, but also illegal. Miller puts forth how tainted people can become and how a town can come apart over rumors and gossip.
Les Dechets lighting was both innovative and creative. The lights hit the characters in a most unusual way at times and yet it worked so well in this immersive production. At times the actors held the spot lights for effect and reverence, other times flashlights were used to emphasize the important relevance and to isolate the actors to make their words resonate for the audience.
Strong costumes by Charlotte Palmer-Lane contributed to the era and the effect as to the plays personality. Lane was able to bring the costumes to the forefront of this deep play that keeps you thinking throughout the three hours. In this era of farming, religion and family, Lane opens the door with her costumes and we felt like we were back in this time watching the characters unfold.
Eric Tucker's strong direction locks these characters in tightly. As if they live together everyday, the actors move about the stage with a strong command. It is no wonder that each actor is listed as "Ensemble," with the exception of Paul Lazar, no actor stands out above the other. Paul Lazar was incredible as the Judge in this performance. A seasoned actor, Lazard owned the stage and was in full command of his role.
In Bedlam's production you get just that, Bedlam. Many of the scene changes were as fast and quick as they were interesting. A person could talk about these changes for hours on end explaining why and how they occurred. Scene changes had people higher or lower depending where they stood in the pecking order. The accused were front and center at times and the Judge was at various times in the performance. Tucker has various actors both strong and weak throughout the show. He shows us the vulnerability of these people, their fears, wants and indignities that many of them suffer.
The staging was a bit confusing here, however. The Connelly is a historic theater with great trim to it, however, Bedlam decided to pull up the seats, have some semi-circle seating in the front and put seats where the stage normally is. The wooden seats up front were highly uncomfortable for a three hour production. The Crucible would have been equally as effective watching it from its traditional stage. To put on this play from a flat- open stage made no sense too me and neither did the wooden chairs in the front.
The Crucible is a strong, deep play. Bedlam did a marvelous job changing it just so but not taking away the meat of the play. Done in a very professional way, this Crucible should not be missed; even for the traditionalist, this play did Miller proud.
About the author
I have been writing on theater since 1982. A graduate from Manhattan College B.S. A member of Alpha Sigma Lambda, which recognizes excellence in both English and Science. I have produced 12 shows on and off Broadway. I've seen over700 shows