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09 April 2016 @ 12:47 pm
Theater Review: The Crucible  
One thing I wanted to try and do as I start to say a protracted goodbye to New York was to see more shows here. So it was my great luck that a production of The Crucible is currently running here, starring Ben Whishaw, Saiorse Ronan, Sophie Okonedo, and Ciaran Hinds. I saw it last night with a friend and it was great!


I can sort of assume everyone knows what the play is about. I hadn't read it in years so I'd forgotten that the character of Abigail Williams (Ronan) actually isn't in the play itself very much. She's certainly the main catalyst but given how much attention Ronan has been getting for this play, I was a little startled to be reminded that stage time-wise, she's in it for about a fraction. But what she did do during the play was great. As was the acting of pretty much everyone across the board. The acting was what really stood out for me in the play rather than the production itself. The set design was fairly modern, looking like an old classroom complete with huge chalkboard that gets some use and everyone's costumes matching accordingly. Abigail and her fellow witch accusers are in schoolgirl outfits with the adults all having vaguely school teacher garbs. There were times when the staging and the blocking felt a bit on the nose with the incidental music that sometimes played in the background. When Abigail and her team start really getting into the possession stuff, there was actually some laughter from the audience because it looked a little canned. Which was a shame because the play itself is delivered with the kind of solemness you'd expect.

But back to the acting. You have Ronan delivering a pretty frightening, aggressive performance as Abigail who really comes across as someone who fears nothing, including God, unlike the men of Salem. As much as you hate her for starting this mess, you hate the men folk more for giving into their cowardice and pettiness. It was quite something to see her stand up to Ciaran Hinds' judge when all other men had wilted under the judge's words. Abigail actually out worded him by sheer force of her own will which was kind of amazing and frustrating to see. You can also see why as a character she'd be attracted to John Proctor (Whishaw) since of the people of Salem, Proctor is the most strong of spirit when it comes to not being obedient for obedience's sake.

I'd forgotten that people's perception of John Proctor is he's a huge, strong, strapping man. Liam Neeson and Richard Armitage were the last actors to portray the character on stage and I saw some reviews remarking on it being an interesting choice to cast Whishaw who is not exactly large in size. But he, I thought, gave a really great portrayal. His John Proctor is less of a physically intimidating presence on stage who is brought low by hysteria but rather a man of reason and rationale who becomes the victim of his own desires and group panic. To see him be so logical in a world gone mad was tragic. Whishaw had some key moments like when Proctor's wife is taken away and when he finally admits to his affair with Abigail where I thought his acting was brilliant. Moments like those I thought really worked in the context of Proctor, someone who always used reason to guide him, now be lost in a maelstorm of fear and intense shame. Having said that, there were moments when Whishaw does have to get physical with a few cast members. And even when these cast members were the "children" of the cast, it never looked right. It always looked like whoever Whishaw was trying to fight could clearly take him down with one aimed punch which might have been the point, perhaps, in highlighting that Proctor is fighting a losing battle.

All in all, the production itself gives nothing too new for audiences to think on, but the acting is absolutely top notch. I was really pleased to get a chance to see it.