Reviewed by Sarah Kuras
Arthur Miller’s play The Crucible came to life this past weekend at Binghamton University. The Watters Theater was packed for opening night (March 9) as the audience was transported back to Salem Village in 1692. As the eerie lights came on, women danced and sang in the woods near a fiery cauldron. This mystical scene set the stage for the rest of the play. Motives and characters were questioned as the townspeople became caught up in the Salem witch trials. With plot twists and turns and hidden motivations, one was never sure of a character’s true intentions.
The set was sparse with bare hanging trees, upright wooden planks and plain wooden furniture that signified the lives of the villagers in the 1690s. Costumes reflected the period with their modesty, functionality, earthy colors and natural fabrics.
BU students portrayed the lives of villagers living in trying times. As the townspeople tried to determine who was a witch, suspicion reigned. The motives of teenager Abigail Williams (Laura Potel) were revealed in Scene I, Act I as she becomes one of the leading forces in the play. Potel played her role with force and was a convincingly conniving teen. The Proctors, played by Jacob Wentlent and Suzannah Herschkowitz, were her target. The Reverend John Hale (Andrew Bryce) came to save the town from utter peril but found himself, even as a righteous and religious man, questioning his own actions and beliefs.
The second scene of Act II was hysterical, both in the sense that the characters were affected by uncontrolled extreme emotion and also that, at times, it was very funny. The flawed logic of the late 17th century courts was undeniable. Characters kept finding themselves facing new challenges as the court proceedings went on.
The emotion reached its peak when, after months of separation, a pregnant Elizabeth Proctor (Herschkowitz) sees her husband, John Proctor (Wentlent), in the Salem Jail the dawn before he is to be hanged. The two have faced trials and tribulations throughout the course of their marriage but even with their faults have tried to live what they consider righteous lives. As he is about to make his final decision, his wife tells him she cannot judge but lets him be the maker of his own destiny. Will John Proctor forgo his life to find judgment at God’s feet, or will he confess to a Devil’s pact to save his life?
Were the accused townspeople aligned with the devil? Who was lying and who was telling the truth? What was at stake was each person’s reputation, the order of the local courts and their standing with God and the Devil when the final judgment came. Would the villagers confess to witchcraft and risk their reputation and their standing in front of God?
The Crucible, directed by Anne Brady, continues at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday (March 16, 17) and at 2 p.m. Sunday (March 18) in the Fine Arts Building on the BU campus. More information can be found here. Tickets are $14 ($12 for faculty, staff and senior), $8 for students with ID). You can purchase tickets online.