Written by Yulissa Chavez
From November 8 to November 19, Texas Performing Arts showcased Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, a story of how ignorance, hatred and jealousy can result in the deaths of innocent people.
Set in Salem, Massachusetts during the 17th century, the play begins with the fearful and paranoid Reverend Parris accusing his devious niece Abigail and his daughter Betty of practicing witchcraft after catching them dancing in the forest around a bowl of stew containing a frog.
While Abigail refutes this accusation, her denial is far from the truth. The young girls in the forest were trying to cast a spell to kill Mrs. Elizabeth Proctor, in order to exact revenge after catching Abigail and her husband John Proctor engaged in an affair.
Since Abigail and the other young girls are scared of being punished for practicing witchcraft, they falsely accuse other women of being witches, including Tituba, Reverend Parris’s Barbadian slave and their friend Mary Warren, who tells the truth in an attempt to prevent Elizabeth Proctor’s execution. Eventually, everyone they accuse is arrested and executed.
The Crucible was originally written during the 1950s, the same period in which McCarthyism was sweeping through the nation. Out of paranoia, the United States government created the House Committee on Un-American Activities, which scouted and accused a countless number of Americans of being communists or communist sympathizers.
The Crucible suggests that one must be ruthless and emotionally detached in order to manipulate a situation in their favor and, ultimately, to survive.
The direction of the production was brilliant. Although the set and prompts were minimal, the story was far from simple. The actors fleshed out their characters with voice inflections, emotional range, and a variety of mannerisms and facial expressions that stayed true to the situation and character dynamics from scene to scene.
The Crucible seems to suggest that people cannot be categorized as “evil” or “pure” since people themselves are much more complicated.
The production effectively executed this message through the physically and emotionally dynamic performances of the actors.
Nyles Washington in the role of John Proctor showed sensitivity through his mounting concern about the growing number of executions. Ismael Vallejo, who played Reverend Parris, also exhibited his character’s complexity, conveying the Reverend’s extreme piety and simultaneous lack of sympathy for the falsely accused.
The actors brought the characters life, making them feel like actual people, all carrying baggage, regret and confusion.
The atmosphere of the stage itself made the audience feel as if they themselves were witnesses of the Salem witch trials. The only props used were wooden furniture and the stage itself allowed the actors to be seen from every angle.
Texas Performing Arts did a phenomenal job in executing Miller’s message: people are complicated and survival may not always be met through justifiable means. The casting and set transported the audience into the environment of 17th century Salem, making them feel like they were actually witnessing a crucible.
Featured image from Texas Performing Arts