Out and About
“The Crucible” depicts a 17th century witch hunt with modern day relevance
The Crucible is a 1953 play by American playwright Arthur Miller. It is a dramatized and partially fictionalized story of the Salem witch trials that took place in the Massachusetts Bay Colony during 1692/93. Miller wrote the play as an allegory for McCarthyism, when the United States government ostracized people for being communists. The play was first performed at the Martin Beck Theatre on Broadway on January 22, 1953. Miller later adapted a film version of The Crucible (1996), with an all-star cast that included, Paul Scofield, Daniel Day-Lewis, and Winona Ryder, and earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Screenplay based on Previously Produced Material.
The plot follows a jilted lover who seeks revenge, throwing a deeply religious community into turmoil, as the law begins to turn on the very residents it should protect. A timeless play as meaningful today as it was then, The Crucible is a tale of caution that warns of the deadly consequences when a society allows a “witch hunt” based on fear, suspicion and superstitious gossip to rule over facts and reason. One need not look further than the current #MeToo movement and Trump Administration to see blatant similarities. The introduction to this recently published National Post article might even be looked as a reflection piece on this play.
The piece examines fear and fallacies, corruption and deception. When a young girl falls ill after she is seen dancing in the forest with her playmates, rumours begin to circulate that it was a pagan ritual related to witchcraft, and the young girl has be demonized by the devil. Meanwhile a well-known villager confronts his infidelity to his wife, after having an affair with his maid. The story then unravels and entangles these two story lines that create panic and rash decisions that are decided by one main power that be, the presiding judge with a strong, devote Christian faith. The townsfolk are put in a position of declaring their allegiance with the devil, or face a public hanging – the difference being between telling the truth and being forced to lie to save your life. Those who dare stand up to this hypocrisy take the risk of sacrificing their own life for the sake of a friend or loved one, with the verdict being decided by what is truth and what is fiction.
This current production is directed by Hart House Theatre alum, Michael Rubinstein, and stars a stellar cast of emergent talent. Rubinstein has worked in the theatre, film and television industries both in Canada and internationally as a Director, Casting Director, Producer, Actor and Agent. He is a graduate from Ryerson University’s Theatre program and had the incredible experience of working as an intern for West End and Broadway Theatre Producer, Sonia Friedman and International Actor and Producer, Kevin Wallace. Michael currently runs a talent agency called M2 Talent Agency.
When asked what makes The Crucible relevant today, Michael had this to say: “Why now? Because it might be more relevant than when it premiered more than fifty years ago. It’s a play filled with modern and contemporary issues, struggles, and human experience both individually and as a whole from politics, to relationships, friendships, sex, power, love, religion, knowledge and coming of age. Although we say we learn from history, we tend to repeat ourselves over and over. Arthur Miller successfully brought this to light through the hysteria and political activity of the Communism scare in the US by paralleling it with the activities of the 1692 Salem witch trials, he also managed to foreshadow the future. Such events as the terrorism surrounding September 11th to today’s US state of affairs, where the climate is being controlled by fear, while many are easily pointing fingers at the different. In these times of great trouble, we see what persuades people towards bias and what influences others to stand their ground and follow their morality.”
Joining Rubinstein on the production team to transform the theatre into what often feels as polished as a Hollywood movie set, are design team Chris Penna (sets), Brandon Kleiman(costumes), C.J. Astronomo (lights) and Jeremy Hutton (sound). The constant sounds of rain and thunder, set amongst the darkness and fog, captures the audience and draws them closer to the characters. When not at the front of the stage, the black-clad cast linger in the shadows at the rear, creating an eerie backdrop of uncertainty. This is a very powerful production, brought to light by a strong stage ensemble, and a professional team behind the scenes as well.
The Crucible On stage until February 3, 2018 -Wed to Sat 8 pm Sat,
Special Pre-show Artist Chat: Sat., Feb. 3 at 1 pm prior to the 2pm matinee performance
Hart House Tickets 416.978.8849 tickets.harthouse.ca Mon. to Fri., 11am to 5pm. By phone or in person. The Hart House Box Office is located in the lower level of Hart House, 7 Hart House Circle, University of Toronto
Approximate running time with intermission: 2 hours, 30 minutes
About the Author
Bryen Dunn is a freelance journalist with a focus on travel, lifestyle, entertainment and hospitality. He has an extensive portfolio of celebrity interviews with musicians, actors and other public personalities. He enjoys discovering delicious eats, tasting spirited treats, and being mesmerized by musical beats.