Truth, lies and witchcraft: The Crucible opens at Parkrose High Theater

Don’t pass up seeing this powerful story presented
by the Parkrose High School Thespians, now playing.
It closes March 7 …

Slave girl Tituba (Kylie Simmons) tends her witch’s brew, as village girls dance with wild abandon – in defiance of their parents wishes.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
The Parkrose High School Thespian Troupe 1783 winter season production is the dramatic classic written by Arthur Miller, The Crucible.

The sparsely-decorated sets and evocative lighting focus audience members’ attention on the story, based on actual historical events surrounding the 17th Century Salem Witch Trials.

When Senator Joseph McCarthy set about “blacklisting” people like Miller, who were accused of being (or associating with) communists, during the infamous House of Representatives’ Committee on Un-American Activities hearings in 1956 – Miller said he wrote this story as an allegory as a response.

The sly and deceitful Abigail Williams (Taylor Grady) tells John Proctor (Olimpio Arellano), a man with whom she had an affair, that she will make sure his wife is charged with witchcraft.

About the story …
Teenage girls are caught cavorting around a pot of witch’s brew in the forest outside of a small Massachusetts hamlet in 1692. To keep from being hanged for practicing witchcraft, the girls, led by their cunning and devious friend Abigail Williams, start accusing other villagers of instigating devil worship.

Tituba admits she did little more than just dabble in the occult. To escape the gallows, she professes her faith in God – and accuses other village women of witchcraft – to Reverend John Hale (Jason Newman), a self-proclaimed expert in occultist phenomena.

The astute, yet weak of character, Ezekiel Cheever (Caesar Santizo), a onetime friend of Proctor, “finds” a doll planted by Abigail Williams with the aim of implicating Proctor’s wife in witchcraft, as an astonished Reverend Hale looks on.

Accusations start flying, as a visiting, well-meaning preacher – a self-professed expert in witchcraft – tries to find the truth. Instead, he accidentally fans the flames of deception. Some lie to advance in wealth; others tell falsehoods out of fear.

In the end, magistrates prosecute more than 150 townsfolk accused of witchcraft in colonial Massachusetts between February 1692 and May 1693 – and, sadly, many of the falsely-accused are put to death.

In the vestry of the Salem, Massachusetts, court, citizens and the accused make charges and countercharges of trickery, witchcraft and land theft.

Deputy Governor Thomas Danforth (Tom Crawford) is gulled by the performance of three of the girls caught dancing around the witch’s caldron, Margaret Parker (Amariah Moran), Lydia Foster (Amanda Coalwell), Betty Parris (Shannon Webb), when the treacherous Abigail Williams pretends to be plagued by spirits.

  • Is it possible that Abigail Williams will get John Proctor all to herself, using her treacherous and deceptive means?
  • Can “expert occultist” Reverend Hale find the truth – and convince magistrates of his findings – before innocent people hang at the gallows?
  • Will Thomas Putnam get away with “appropriating” John Proctor’s land and animals while John languishes in jail?

Who will die? Who will be set free? Will slave girl Tituba really find her way back to her home in Barbados?

Come see The Crucible and find out!

“Miller’s demons were wrapped up in the McCarthy-era hearings,” noted Ms. Zena, the show’s director. “This story still resonates today; we still face prejudices based on a lack of knowledge – and sometimes on selfish actions based on a desire to make ourselves feel better or safer. This makes The Crucible a timeless play.”

Even though he seems to know that the witch trials in Salem are a sham, Deputy Governor Danforth (Tom Crawford) fears of being seen as weak – and of having his high government position undermined – if he releases any of the prisoners falsely accused of witchcraft.

John Proctor (center, blue shirt) professes his innocence, and holds to his convictions – but will this act cost him his life?

Production values add to the drama
Well-thought-out set design and decoration, period costumes, and dramatic lighting increase the realism of the story, as the drama builds throughout the evening.

The show features a cast of 30 students, and a production crew of 20 more. This production of The Crucible promises to be a great evening of theater. However, due to the dramatic adult themes (but not the content), it might be uncomfortable for very small children.

The cast assembles for a low-key curtain call at the end of this moving performance.

The Crucible runs through March 7
Opening night was on February 26; it plays on the evenings of February 27 and 28 – then again on March 6 and 7. Curtain time is 7 pm for all shows.

Tickets will be available at the door, and are only $8 for adults, $5 for students 18 and under, and $5 for honored citizens 65+. Come early to assure yourself a good seat.

The production is staged at the Parkrose High School Theatre, 12003 NE Shaver Street, just west of NE 122nd Avenue.

© 2009 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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