Saturday, October 14, 2017

Review of Steppenwolf for Young Adults' The Crucible

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called The Crucible. It was by Arthur Miller and it was directed by Jonathan Berry. It is about a group of girls--Betty Parris (Kristina Valada-Viars), Susanna Walcott (Stephanie Shum), Mercy Lewis (Avi Roque), Mary Warren (Taylor Blim), and Abigail Williams (Naïma Hebrail Kidjo)--who were dancing in the forest with Reverend Parris' (Peter Moore) slave Tituba (Echaka Agba)and they are suspected of trying to call on the devil. Instead of just taking the punishment they would have gotten, they start accusing other people of witchcraft which leads to destruction and death. But one of the girls, Abigail, has had an affair with her old employer, John Proctor (Travis A. Knight), so she tells everyone that his wife Elizabeth (Valada-Viars) is a witch so that she can be with him, which is really messed up. And when Reverend Parris realizes he can't deal with all these witches on his own, he gets Reverend Hale (Erik Hellman) to help him. But eventually Reverend Hale realizes that maybe the children are lying. It is about the faults of religion, flaws in the judicial system, and acts of courage. I think this is a really intriguing and beautifully done show. It had great visual aspects and it was also really well acted.

There were a lot of really great visual aspects to this show. The set (by Arnel Sancianco) was eerie, like a skeleton of a house on a platform. And the actors all walk out on stage completely silent and sit around the platform in chairs. And then this drum music starts and the girls get up and start to dance with Tituba. I thought that was a really cool way to start the show. It was such a change from the silence and put-togetherness of the actors coming on stage at first. Then it became this loud drum music (by Kevin O'Donnell) and stomping dance. To me, it kind of represented how the play goes. It starts with something normal, a girl being sick, and then it turns into accusations of witches witches everywhere, basically everything going crazy. I thought it was cool how the actors changed on stage too. All of of the costumes (by Izumi Inaba) for different characters played by the same actor were added on to the base costume, and they were all black and white. Against a dark-colored set it was a really cool image.

John Proctor is a very complicated character. He makes a really bad choice to have sexual relations with his employee while his wife was sick. That doesn't make it okay at all; that makes it worse. But he knows he made a mistake and he wants to make up for it by helping save his wife's life. But before he knows his wife's life is in danger, he is sort of mean to her because of how guilty he feels about what he has done. That doesn't make it okay to be a jerk to her. It is sad that they don't get a happy ending, which is how you want it to go. But that is probably not how it should go because he deserved to have a little bit of consequences, but I think the consequences he got from the outside world were too harsh. His wife wanted to forgive him and live with him, but he couldn't do that in the end because he didn't want to lie again, even if it wasn't to her. He becomes a better person over the course of the play. Abigail is also complicated because you know that she isn't doing the right thing by accusing hundreds of people. But you feel sorry for her because you know the reason why she is trying to get Elizabeth out of her life is because she felt like John Proctor had promised her something. Abigail has been tricked by John. But she also makes a mistake. And she doesn't try to make up for it. She just makes many more mistakes that kill 20 people. But also, Abigail gets called a whore because she slept with John even though it probably wasn't all her idea. And even though John gets called a lecher, you mostly remember that he's honest in the end. I'm not sure the play is really trying to forgive Abigail, but it is really interested in forgiving John. But as an audience member I can see ways to forgive Abigail, especially with these particular performances. She does a good job of making me hate her in some scenes and in other scenes be able to see where she was coming from, which is a really hard thing for an actor to do. John Proctor is also not kind to her, he is physically rough with her, which I think adds a lot to how you can sympathize with her.

This show expresses basically what it feels like being a teenage girl. You feel like you want to be noticed, and you'd do anything to get that attention. They want a little excitement in their lives, so they dance in the woods and drink blood, like hanging out with your friends and going to a party when you are not supposed to. And the society around them believes them when they are lying and doesn't believe them when they are telling the truth, which is pretty messed up. I think it is great to have this as part of a theater for young adults show, because so many people will identify with it. It is always good to learn from things other people have done without having to face the consequences yourself. And this is why theater exists--to generate that learning but also catharsis. And that is good to show teenagers.

People who would like this show are people who like eerie sets, thinking about characters in new ways, and witches witches everywhere. I think that people should definitely go see this show. I think it is a really great production of this play. It made me think about it in ways I hadn't the first time I saw it.

Photos: Michael Brosilow

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