‘Crucible’ provides thought-provoking issues with technical expertise and talented cast

December 14, 2011

All reviews are written by Cappies student critics and edited by Cappies adult mentors prior to publishing.

Julian Sanchez, a student at Westfield High School reviews ‘The Crucible’, performed by Washington-Lee High School as part of The Cappies Critics and Awards Program.

At first glance, Washington-Lee High School’s riveting production of “The Crucible” may appear to be a simple, tragic tale of corruption nestled within a small, New-England village. But look closer and you’ll find a dramatic masterpiece, presented with raw performances, that follows an innocent town’s slow, downward spiral into anguish, deceit, and hysteria.

This theatrical classic, written by renowned playwright Arthur Miller, premiered on Broadway in 1953, and has since been considered to be one of the most powerful plays of the 20th century. Arthur Miller wrote this fictionalized account of the 1692 Salem Witch Trials in response to the growing sense of paranoia within the entertainment industry, brought on by McCarthyism and the Hollywood blacklists of the 1950s. The play tells the story of John and Elizabeth Proctor, a painfully unhappy couple, whose lives are turned upside-down when John’s former lover, Abigail Williams, falsely accuses citizens of Salem to be witches. Delirium ensues as promises are broken, motives are questioned, and sides are taken in this heartbreaking narrative.

Washington-Lee’s talented group of actors worked well as a cohesive group who all tackled the wordy language of the play with ease, keeping a quick pace throughout the show. The cast brought energy and a fresh sense of terror which heightened the lasting effects of the performance, and left the audience viscerally stimulated. The company skillfully managed to portray their own vigorous take on the famous play, which made the overall production more unique and pleasing. 

An immediate scene stealer throughout the show was Audrey Bowler, as the emotionally despondent Elizabeth Proctor. Her internal struggle between love and animosity towards her unfaithful husband was evident through her vivid expressiveness and engaging physicality. Bowler’s engrossing performance was paired perfectly with Jeffrey Warren, who played John Proctor. Warren’s absorbing portrayal of the protagonist was demonstrated in his emotive monologues and captivating poignant final moments. Bowler and Warren created a flawlessly convincing portrait of a struggling marriage in shambles.

Because of its large ensemble cast, “The Crucible” was graced with a gifted set of supporting actors who brought the depth of the play to a greater level. One standout performance was from Amy Sheahan, who exhibited the devious and manipulative side of Abigail Williams with vast emotional range. Another memorable portrayal was from Henry Conklin, whose villainous take on Deputy Governor Danforth was both intriguing and impressive.

Various technical components created realism to the show, and added excitement to otherwise slow moments. Powerfully rousing original music (composed by sophomore Connor Browne) intensified the sense of fear in the background of scenes and increased the tension of dramatic situations. Makeup (Michelly Sorge, Leah Crangle, Manon Loustaunau, Claire Seaton) was age-appropriate, and strikingly enhanced the characters physical appearances. The scenic designers (Jill Luoma-Overstreet, Lukas Eigler-Harding, Nina Troy) cleverly utilized stage space by designing a minimal, yet innovative, 17th Century Puritan set. Three large crosses slowly turned during the course of the play to reveal eerie gallows, creatively changing the tone of the production.

Whether it be the enthralling performances or the thrilling tech elements, Washington-Lee High School made “The Crucible” tremendously enjoyable, and was successful in retaining the incredible lyricism of this beautiful, thought-provoking show. 

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