The Crucible

The Crucible
By Arthur Miller
Performed Fall 2009

Director: Stephanie McGill
Co-Director: Jenna Lorence
Stage Manager: Sarah Vahle
Costume Designer: Shannon Healy
Scene Designer: Stephanie McGill and Jenna Lorence
Lighting: Evan Lundy
Photo Credit: Tim Raveling

“When you understand what you see, you will no longer be children. You will know that life is pain, that each of us hangs always upon the cross of himself.” – Whittaker Chambers

“Now Heaven and Hell grapple on our backs, and all our old pretense is ripped away- peace! It is providence and no great change; we are only what we always were, but naked now. Aye, naked. And the wind, God’s icy wind, will blow..”
- John Proctor, The Crucible

Eden Troupe Refined in “Crucible”
Review by David Sackrider
November 20, 2009

With its fall production of Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible”, Eden Troupe stepped a short distance from its home at Patrick Henry College, and took a giant stride into the community of mature theatre. Directors Stephanie McGill and Jenna Lorence not only challenged their cast with a play far more modern and meaty than Eden Troupe’s usual offerings; they drew from their young players laudable performances.

By setting “The Crucible” amid the Salem witch hunts, Miller deftly demonstrates an authoritarian society responding with inappropriate zeal to a misunderstood situation. Regardless of the program notes accompanying this production, the play is less about redemption and salvation than it is about the damage inflicted by righteousness untempered by humanity. Through the fiction of “The Crucible” Miller was able to personalize and expose the very real tragedy that the House Un-American Activities Committee inflicted on our nation during the spasmodic anti-communist witch hunts in the middle of the last century. Public recollection of the hearings’ details might have faded as the years passed, but Miller’s art makes the story and message timeless.

On the subject of facilities, how appropriate it may be for this particular college to utilize the facilities of a public school merits attention in a future column. For our purposes here we must note that the auditorium of Harmony Intermediate School provides a much better theatre-going experience than does Eden Troupe’s traditional home in the Town Hall on campus. Better acoustics alone significantly reduced the audience work load. The genuine stage at Harmony also offers performers and technical crew a much better space with greater freedom of movement and staging.

Of course, an evening in the most splendid theatre would still be wasted without a good play performed well. Thursday’s opening performance was not a wasted evening. Joseph Alm took hold of the weightiest part, that of John Proctor. In this role Alm walked the tightrope between honorable duty and personal survival. On one hand Proctor wishes to push his community away from the hysterical frenzy of witch hunting brought about the lies and machinations of a young woman, Abigail Williams. Only by exposing the young woman for what she is can he save his community, and his wife who has been accused of witchcraft. On that dreaded other hand, exposing Abigail will probably mean exposing to his literally Puritanical townsmen than he has had an affair with Abigail. Alm maturely opened Proctor’s mind and soul without going over the top.

The part of Abigail Williams was played by co-director Stephanie McGill as a late substitution. Clearly she knew the part and exactly what the directors wanted from Abigail, and she delivered in fine form. McGill and Alm brought courageous physicality to the scenes in which Proctor tries to get Abigail to do the right thing, and Abigail pleads with Proctor to do the wrong thing again.

As his career with Eden Troupe approaches its end Aidan Grano gave his best performance to date as Governor Danforth. Grano portrayed, rather than wore, his part. The strident purpose and panic that he might not get his way belonged to Danforth the character, not Grano the actor. The remainder of the cast gave solid performances.

The costumes, created under the leadership of [Shannon Healy], conveyed the colonial period simply and effectively. The sets, even simpler, piggybacked on the sense of time and place established by the costumes.

Young directors McGill and Lorence are not the first of Eden Troupe to take chances. What we find encouraging is that courage more than necessity drove their choices.

Eden Troupe of Patrick Henry College presented “The Crucible” November 12, 13 and 14 at Harmony Intermediate School.