“THE CRUCIBLE” RIVETING DRAMA AT HARTFORD STAGE


BONNIE GOLDBERG

Fear of the unknown and fear for personal safety can prompt people to commit unconscionable acts. Throughout history, men and women have turned on their neighbors, accusing them in the name of religion or political expediency, labeling them as traitors, communists, enemies of the state and even, in rare instances, as witches.

Playwright Arthur Miller crafted a classic drama in 1953 that reflected an allegory on what he was himself experiencing in Senator Joseph McCarthy’s “witch hunt” to expose communists in his hearings on the Committee for Un-American Activities. Miller refused to name names when interrogated. He sets his play “The Crucible” in the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1692-93 when hysteria has overtaken the town of Salem and a bevy of young girls start hurling accusations at their neighbors like bolts of lightning across the Salem skies. “The Crucible” will ignite the Hartford Stage until Thursday, October 6.

The sanctimonious Reverend Parris (Tom Beckett) witnesses his daughter Betty (Lilli Jacobs) and niece Abigail (Rachel Mewbron) dancing in the woods with other females, some possibly naked, along with his slave Tituba (C. Zakiah Barksdale) who comes from Barbados.  Now Betty lies in her bed unconscious and the worried father has summoned Reverend Hale (David Barlow) who has knowledge of the occult to come to help.

To protect themselves from being accused of witchcraft, the girls concoct a list of witches including god-fearing women like the well-respected Rebecca Nurse (Annette Hunt). A local farmer John Proctor (Michael Laurence) and his wife Elizabeth (Kate Forbes) find themselves caught in the web of suspicion, especially when their housemaid Mary Warren (Keira Keeley) changes her testimony before the powerful court led by Judge Danforth, a domineering and righteous for justice Sam Tsoutsouvas.

When the fate of John Proctor and many others hinges on their confessions of witchcraft to save their necks from the hanging rope, the question of the value of a good name becomes paramount. Gordon Edelstein, artistic director of Long Wharf Theatre, directs this riveting three- hour theatrical event.

For tickets ($23-69), call the Hartford Stage, 50 Church Street, Hartford at 860-527-5151 or online at www.hartfordstage.org. Performances are Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and Sunday at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday at 8 p.m., with matinees Sunday and selected Wednesdays and Saturdays at 2 p.m. Added performances include a special early 6:30 p.m. show Wednesday, October 5.

Vigilance is always necessary to guard against rumors and lies invading minds, causing the persecution of the innocent when evil rears its ugly head.

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