I remember reading this play in Grade 11 English class and not really being a huge fan of the play; however after seeing this production I must admit my mind was changed. I thought that this production was exceptionally well cast, and most certainly well performed. It changed my perspective on the play for sure!
The play itself is a difficult read but a wonder to behold. The events of the play are so frustrating and infuriating, and yet that’s Miller’s point. His audience was in the midst of the same sort of “witch hunting” during President McCarthy’s reign and with that social injustice in mind he is able to show his audience, as well as all audiences since, the ridiculous injustice of such unfounded prying into people’s lives. I’m not sure if it moved the people then, but it certainly moved me. To watch these people being charged, and hanged, all because of the supposedly good word of a few young women was practically unbearable. It’s amazing what ignorance and fear can do to people. And yet we see it all over the world today, people who are willing to do anything in the name of the cause they believe in purely because they think it’s correct. The people of Salem believed they were in danger of witches and witchcraft; they weren’t the first town to think so and they certainly won’t be the last.
The prologue of the play, which was added in by director Gordon McCall, was fabulously done. I loved singing the hymns before the play begins; it put the audience into the proper mindset of the play. Plus it provided a huge contrast to the rest of the prologue. The part with Tituba and the girls in the woods is written in the script, and needs to be acted out for the play to truly make sense. The only issue I had was that the music got very modern the more the prologue went on; at first it was very tribal and drum based (which I really liked because the voodoo magic itself is very tribal in nature) but then it turned into a very pulsating beat like at a dance club. While it created an even more stark contrast than it already possessed, it was a choice I don’t think I would have made (although it really was the only one!)
The way the show looked was incredible as well. I loved how the set worked with negative space and therefore was able to be everywhere the play needed it to be. At the same time the empty beams also resembled the gallows that so many of the characters were destined for. The costumes were lovely. I was so happy that they were of the period; it made the play so much more real to me. I’m always impressed at how amazing and professional these productions are. You can tell how dedicated everyone is to their craft, and the professors that lead these talented students are certainly no exception.
This play was expertly cast. The cast itself was huge, and had students who were as young as first or second year mixed in with the fourth year students. An ensemble cast of that size is not often seen in a University Players production, so this was a real treat. With such a large ensemble it seems almost unfair to select a few to praise, especially since everyone impressed me so much. All I can say, is that there were some of them I wanted to punch, some of them I could have strangled myself, some of them I wanted to hug, and if the play had have gone on much longer, I don’t think I could have made it. I was almost crying by the end of it as it was!
So the University Players have definitely changed my opinion about The Crucible, and I am thankful for it. I felt like I really went through a very difficult experience with these characters. There’s something about seeing this raw human nature on stage that makes for an unforgettable ordeal. Plays like this are why I am so passionate about theatre.