UA's 'The Crucible' fails to parallel Miller's production
When Arthur Miller wrote "The Crucible," he saw the same unjustified mob mentality displayed during the McCarthy era.
Here, perceived enemies were eliminated by exploiting the fear of Communism in America under the pretense of patriotism. The play had an undeniable relevance to the politics of the day.
Now, audiences look at this play with an objective distance, like a historical work.
It lacks a clear-cut parallel to current events.
The University of Arizona Repertory Theater's revival of "The Crucible" -Øbeing performed through Sunday at the Marroney Theatre - unfortunately loses many of Miller's substantive elements.
At times, when the accusations really fly and tension mounts, wildly inappropriate music - which sounds like airplane engines meeting the background music of "The X-Files" - plays in a weak attempt to create atmosphere. All of these elements fail to create a sense of that impending doom for these characters.
In addition, Brent Gibbs, director of "The Crucible," does not give the play a compelling center.
In other productions, that center is Abigail Williams, a girl caught dancing in the woods. She leads other girls in false accusations of witchcraft in order to hide their own crime of conjuring spirits. Thus she enacts her own vengeance against Elizabeth Proctor, the wife of her former lover John Proctor.
Yet, Abigail is not a powerful, conniving force in this production. Rather, she seems unaware of the trouble she is causing.
The play's focus then falls to Elizabeth and John Proctor. However, with only a few moments of tenderness between the two, the audience cannot lament over their hardships. Elizabeth is too cold, too demure and not the sure-minded woman Miller intended.
John Proctor is better, but so many of his conflicts are internal and the audience can't get a sense of his turmoil.
Arthur Miller's play has much unspoken dialogue. But many times in this production, the actors fail to bring those to the surface.
The uncomfortable tension between Elizabeth and John is missing, as is the sense of bygone love between Proctor and Abigail and the Reverend Parris' compulsion for money. These elements are all present in the spoken lines, but the cast does not give a well-rounded sense to their characters.
But, the play does have some finer points.
Moments of tension where a well-played Mary Warren is forced to go up against the other girls in court creates genuine excitement. Here, the actors gel into a formidable ensemble, with better acting than the group from "The Blair Witch Project" and without all the nauseating camera work.