‘The Crucible’ provides insights into Salem groupthink
By Jessica Goldstein
Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2011
The Salem witch trials are a strange, shadowy part of our past: Was that really us, burning those accused of invisible crimes, stringing up suspicious women on trees, hanging them from the branches like Christmas ornaments?
What's especially bizarre about "The Crucible," Arthur Miller's dramatization of that time and place, is that the power lies with girls. They can manipulate the masses; the entire community is like Play-Doh in their small hands.
"That's what's fascinating about this show: The children are in charge," said Susan Marie Rhea, who is directing "The Crucible" at Keegan Theatre for the second time. Rhea just returned with her cast from a three-week tour in Ireland.
Sarah Lasko, the actress playing the ringleader, Abigail, describes her as "the alpha. . . . She's so devious and manipulative. . . . She hides behind the innocence and ultimately is this evil person.
"What the girls do in this play [is] completely for attention, and it's also extremely scary. . . . There's really high stakes at every moment."
Citing the Puritan style of child-rearing - Puritans took to parenting as they took to everything else that occurred outside church: as an unwelcome distraction from prayer - Rhea said, "You can see how the chance to be in charge and have power would have been intoxicating."
The nine girls playing Abigail's gang range in age from 9 to 17.
Rhea acknowledged that working with a younger cast was more time-consuming but said, "There's something thrilling to me about sitting there and they're bona fide teenagers. . . . When I see a show done and there are roles that are called for teenagers, and there's a 25-year-old, it bums me out. In my opinion, it's worth all the extra hours."
Keegan Theatre, 1742 Church St. NW. Through Nov. 19. www.keegantheatre.com. 703-892-0202.