By Cailey Hollen, Contributing Writer
Vampires, werewolves, and witches – oh my! With Halloween finally upon us, the country is alight with ghoulish delight. Decorations fill the yards, scary movies dominate the television channels, and children eagerly await the arrival of Halloween night. Bowls of candy have been set out in anticipation of little ghouls and goblins, and the little witches and wizards are ready to recite their infamous spell, “Trick or treat!” In this day and age, witches are seen as supernatural beings of fun and adventure. However, for the Salem villagers of Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible,” the thought of witchcraft is far more dangerous and life-threatening.
Written in 1952 as an allegory for the Joseph McCarthy anti-communist pursuits, “The Crucible” follows the lives of the Salem villagers and the trials they, quite literally, face. A single accusation of witchcraft sets the town a-frenzy, and no one, not even the men, are safe from the wrath brought on by Abigail Williams and her friends.
In the very first scene, the audience watches as young women dash across the stage, blundering through a dark forest, until they gather beneath the chilling wails of Naeema Butt’s Tituba. Clothed in a dress of the brightest red, Tituba stands before a lone cauldron; surrounding her are the seven young women seen running across the stage, and in the background, a soft tribal beat drums. Dimmed lights cast shadows across the stage, and as the sound of the tribal drums rose to a crescendo, the village girls throw themselves into a circle of wild dance. The play had only just begun, and already, I was able to tell that it was going to be much darker than I had originally expected.
The following scenes commence, and with each line that is recited the play dives deeper and deeper into the dark tones I saw at the beginning. In the midst of the exchanges, the audience learns that Abigail Williams, portrayed by Margaret Dillon, has an ulterior motive to her accusations that completely changes the game. Secret meetings between Abigail and John Proctor, played by Jaccob Trifonoff, illuminate an affair between them that has recently ended. While John Proctor makes it clear that he is ready to leave the affair in the past, Abigail is not too willing to let go. Dillon brings Abigail’s obsession with John Proctor to life and shines in the manipulation of the court officials.
Yet, where Dillon shines as the unsatisfied lover, Meaghan Macey is captivating in her role of Elizabeth Proctor. When I first learned of Elizabeth Proctor, I never expected her to be such a major character, but as the plot unfolded and her appearance in scenes became more frequent, I found myself invested in her character. Act 1, Scene 3 places a majority of the scene’s focus on the Proctors and the tragedy that has become their marriage. It is throughout this scene that I was able to witness a strained tenderness between husband and wife. Macey portrays Elizabeth’s hurt over her husband’s infidelity beautifully, and while the character has been described as weak and sickly, Macey brings Elizabeth’s inner strength to life.
Jaccob Trifonoff portrays Elizabeth’s husband, John Proctor, and by the second scene of Act 1, it is clear that he is a major character. As Michael Aulick described in the playbill’s ‘Note from the Director,’ “John Proctor is no romantic hero; he is an ordinary man who finally finds his own moral center.”
Throughout the play, I was able to witness this statement come to life. While Proctor may not be a romantic hero, he is admirable for the boldness and courage he demonstrates when standing against Parris and Putnam as well as the ferocity which he uses when resisting the arrest of his wife. Trifonoff captures each emotion and brings it to life – especially when it comes time for his confession.
The emotion poured into Proctor’s exclamation, “I have given you my soul; leave me my name,” is overwhelming, and while it is the line that ultimately sends Proctor to his death, Trifonoff allows the line to linger, passionately and hauntingly, as his silhouette sways against the violent red of the backdrop.
Beautifully produced with excellent casting, “The Crucible” was more than a perfect fit for the holiday season. In addition to highlighting the everyday occurrence of sin, repentance, and forgiveness, “The Crucible” is a play that highlights just how damaging a single accusation can be. A perfect ending to the month of October, “The Crucible” is a play I would highly recommend and gladly see again.