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“The Crucible” by Arthur Miller Is a Cautionary Tale About the Salem Witch Trials’ Rush to Judgment

Raleigh Little Theatre will present "The Crucible" by Arthur Miller on April 13-15, 19-22, and 26-29 in its Cantey V. Sutton Theatre

Raleigh Little Theatre will present "The Crucible" by Arthur Miller on April 13-15, 19-22, and 26-29 in its Cantey V. Sutton Theatre

Raleigh Little Theatre will stage a community-theater presentation of The Crucible by American dramatist and essayist Arthur Miller (1915-2005), a cautionary tale about the rush to judgment at the Salem Witch Trials (1692-93), on April 13-15, 19-22, and 26-29 in its Cantey V. Sutton Theatre. The play is a parable of moral courage in a time of intolerance and mass hysteria, when the criminal justice system was perverted by a few individuals seeking public vengeance and/or private personal gain.

In reviewing the 2002 Broadway revival of the 1952 play, directed by Richard Eyre and starring Liam Neeson and Laura Linney as John and Elizabeth Proctor, Kelly Monaghan wrote in The Intrepid Travelogue: “One sure hallmark of a classic is its ability to speak to succeeding generations. By that measure, Arthur Miller’s searing parable … is destined to resonate for centuries to come. Certainly, there are moments in the play that hit today’s … audience with the force of a breaking news bulletin… Barely 50 years after it was written, Miller’s play has assumed the lofty stature of a much older masterpiece. Its wisdom seems ancient, its scope Shakespearean….”

“My first exposure to The Crucible was a production that my dad [Foster Fitz-Simons] did at PlayMakers Repertory Company in the mid-1960s,”recalls director Haskell Fitz-Simons. “I have never directed the play before.”

He adds, “There are amazing characters in this play and an amazing interplay of ideas. It also has an uncanny relevance to today’s events, when people are still victims of witch hunts.

“The language of The Crucible is some of the most beautiful on the American stage,” claims Haskell Fitz-Simons. “It’s not Shakespearean or anything like that, but it not only transports you back to the late 17th century time of the Salem Witch Trials, but it also is completely accessible for today’s audiences.”

The Raleigh Little Theatre cast for The Crucible includes Matthew Hurley as the Rev. Samuel Parris, Lauren Toney as his 10-year-old daughter Betty, Kirsten Ehlert as his 17-year-old niece Abigail Williams, Laurell Bell as the Rev. Parris’ slave from Barbados Tituba, Jackson Prather and Izzy Burger as Thomas and Ann Putnam, Sara Evans as the Putnams’ servant Mercy Lewis, Jim Zervas and Diane Monson as John and Elizabeth Proctor, Lynn O’Shaughnessy as the Proctors’ housemaid Mary Warren, Patsy Clarke as Rebecca Nurse, Izzy Burger (again) as Sarah Goode, Randy Lawrence as Giles Corey, Randy Jordan as Francis Nurse, Grace Regitko as Susanna Walcott, Matthew Plaia as Ezekial Cheever, Brian Harvell as witchcraft expert the Rev. John Hale, Jerry Zieman as Salem Witch Trials presiding judge John Hathorne, Chris Brown as Deputy Governor and Salem Witch Trials judge Thomas Danforth, Brian Hollingsworth as Willard, and Scott Enroughty as a Guard.

In addition to director Haskell Fitz-Simons, who doubles as sound designer for the show, the Raleigh Little Theatre creative team for The Crucible includes assistant director Adrienne Dyson, technical director Jim Zervas, set and lighting designer Thomas Mauney, costume designer Vicki Olson, sound engineer Todd Houseknecht, and stage manager Timothy Locklear.

Director Haskell Fitz-Simons says, “The set is a unit set, constructed of a lot of raw wood — of course, it’s been stained to suggest the gray, weathered boards of Salem, Massachusetts, circa 1692. Those houses were not painted; they were just built…. The scenic elements slide on and off in the most ingenious ways, thanks to set and lighting designer Thomas Mauney.”

Fitz-Simons adds, “The lights are very beautiful. Very little in this show takes place outside, in broad daylight. There are mostly night scenes that take place inside….

The Crucible is a very dark play, let’s face it,” says Fitz-Simons. “I think Thomas Mauney has done a beautiful job with that.”

He adds, “[Costume designer] Vicki Olson has, of course, just about killed herself creating costumes of the period. She has, as usual, designed from the undergarments out, more so for the women than the men. Sometimes, I think that the characters from The Crucible look like escapees from the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. But there are variations in colors and accents.”

Fitz-Simons says, “I think that the drama speaks for itself. Arthur Miller wrote it in reaction to the McCarthy hearings. But I don’t think that you need to know anything about them to appreciate the play….

“Today,” says director Haskell Fitz-Simons, “there are a number of situations where people are unjustly persecuted and prosecuted, and we all know how little it takes to ruin your life forever. In The Crucible, a lie told by a vengeful girl sets the plot in motion; and the play has some pretty enduring themes: revenge, betrayal, greed, love, lust. It’s a regular buffet,” quips Raleigh Little Theatre‘s long-time artistic director.

Raleigh Little Theatre presents THE CRUCIBLE at 8 p.m. April 13 and 14, 3 p.m. April 15, 8 p.m. April 19-21, 3 p.m. April 22, 8 p.m. April 26-28, and 3 p.m. April 29 in RLT‘s Cantey V. Sutton Theatre, 301 Pogue St., Raleigh, North Carolina 27607.

TICKETS: $20 ($16 students and seniors 62+), except all tickets $12 for the 3 p.m. Sunday, April 15th, performance.

BOX OFFICE: 919-821-3111 or http://www.etix.com/.

SHOW: http://raleighlittletheatre.org/shows/11-12/crucible.html.

SEASON: http://raleighlittletheatre.org/shows/11-12/index.html.

PRESENTER/VENUE: http://www.raleighlittletheatre.org/.

DIRECTIONS/PARKING: http://raleighlittletheatre.org/about/map-directions.html.

NOTE 1: Arts Access, Inc. of Raleigh (http://www.artsaccessinc.org/) will audio describe the 3 p.m. April 15th performance.

NOTE 2: All shows are wheelchair accessible, and assistive-listening devices are available for all shows.

OTHER LINKS:

The Play: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Crucible (Wikipedia).

The Script: http://books.google.com/ (Google Books).

The Playwright: http://www.ibiblio.org/miller/ (Arthur Miller Society) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arthur_Miller (Wikipedia).

Salem Witch Trials: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salem_witch_trials (Wikipedia).

EDITOR’S NOTE:

Robert W. McDowell is editor and publisher of Triangle Theater Review, a FREE weekly e-mail theatrical newsletter that provides more comprehensive, in-depth coverage of Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill theater than all of the other news media combined. This preview is reprinted with permission from Triangle Theater Review.

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