Friday, July 8, 2011

Warfel on "The Crucible"

Season's Uncurtaining of Play House's Euclid-77th St. Theater offers Arthur Miller's compelling drama, "The Crucible." First night impressions by (Cleveland Press) Artist Jim Herron.

Play House Does a Great Job With Miller's Stirring "Crucible"
By Jack Warfel
Cleveland Press, Wednesday, October 7, 1954

With expected forwardness, the Play House opens a new season in its Euclid-77th St. Theater with a play vastly articulate and compellingly assertive.

Uncurtained for a premiere last evening the work, by Arthur Miller, author of the prize-winning drama "Death of a Salesman," is titled "The Crucible."

Winner of the Antoinette Perry Award for best play of the year, Miller's newer effort has already been produced in Germany and France with success of varying degrees, following its New York introduction, before reaching Cleveland.

Contemporary futility, sham and vanity, balanced by persevering dignity and truth are pitched back into the year 1692 with a Salem, Mass. setting, for the evaluation by the author.

Salem's field-fire spread of witchcraft suspicions, trials and hangings cast long shadows into our present generations in sundry guises, easily identified in Miller's preachment.

Savage Portrait

In a sense the play is frightening by implications, certainly electrifying as theatrical fare.

Here is a savage portrait of gossip-mongering and character defamation among persons, communities and nations; also a bitter denunciation of groups with such extreme righteousness that they attempt to extinguish all but their own light in the world.

In the author's own explanation for this work, "Characters of Salem appealed to me because they were conscious of an ideology and knew what they stood for ... they understood what was happening to them and they knew why they struggled ... they did not die helplessly ... they did not whimper."

Conflict Essential

Miller believes that since 1920 American drama has been a steady year-by-year documentation of man's defeat,a trend in which the author places no trust.

"Conflict," he asserts, "is the essence of life and until man realizes this he will knock himself out trying to wipe it from the world."

There are sterling performances in "The Crucible," staged by Frederic McConnell. Ella Apple, one of the more gifted actresses from Karamu Theater's talent lode, acts Tituba, a Christian accused of witchcraft and snuffed out as an easy victim.

Her performance, as usual, is splendidly eloquent.

Kirk Willis Fine

Kirk Willis and Eve Roberts as husband and wife, brooding over his indiscretion with a servant girl who subsequently accuses the wife of witchcraft for doom's-sake, are altogether right.

The cast is uniformly skilled and includes major performances by Max Ellis, Frank Stevens, Helen Watkins, Robert Allman, Rolf Engelhardt (who gives his role a Shakespearean flourish), and William Paterson, the latter a calculating deputy governor.

Settings by William McCreary are studies in Economy, tremendously effective.

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