West’s The Crucible; Miller would ‘kvell*’ Reply

Review by Danny Gaisin

Chaplin; Copland; Brecht; Garfield; Gilford; Hammett; Hellmann; ‘Gypsy’; Meredith; Robinson; Shaw; Seeger; & Miller…just some of the single-named celebrities screwed by HUAC during the 50’s Red Scare. The U.S. Senate’s House Un-American Activities Committee couldn’t jail many of its quarries so McCarthy, Roy Cohn & Richard Nixon resorted to ‘the blacklist’; a circuitous way of ruining those who had the gall to not name names.  Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman; “All my Sons” et.al secure his place in the top echelon of writers, but it was his CRUCIBLE that affected my family the most…it touched us as close as next door.Director Yo Mustafa is way too young to have known the fifties but like some of his other directorial exploits, he manages to capture the essence of the time. Miller’s play is thinly allegorical and reiterates, or rather – updates, the early Massachusetts witch hunts.

This may be our fourth viewing but for the first time, I found myself re-assigning the play’s characters with what I visualized as their Eisenhower era counterparts! An unusually sparse set forces one’s focus on the actors without any distraction. Except for a few occasions of poor vocal projection; every line is potent and powerful. Obviously, the cast members are so involved with their roles and on-stage relationships that the concept of an audience becomes gratuitous. This rendition is theatre that is as professional as it gets.

There are no weak characterizations, nor are there any apathetic performances. From lead to smallest support cast, everyone gives full measure and thespian intensity. The play calls for a rather large number of youngsters and their dedication to the play’s success is tangible. The demanding role of Tituba receives 100% from Roselyn Kelada-Sedra while the highly experienced duo of Sean Dunne & Dia Frid shows veteran’s innate skill. V. John Fielding fleshes out the role of Giles Corey whose wife is condemned. His rendering certainly harks back to the HUAC era. The local minister, played by Nick Bishupek utilizes stance and expression to mirror the arrogant Roy Cohn, even to his ear-bending entreaties to the judge. Speaking of hizzoner, Barry Cauchon has all the self-righteousness that old Joe McC. Exhibited for the TV cameras. The catalyst that brings on the environment for the witch hunt is the young Abigail Williams who plays her elders like a violin. Chandler Boriska exhibits a maturity and natural acting ability that belies her age.

The two major protagonists are Adam Hilliard who is the invited prelate Jon Hale, who ultimately realizes how wrong the whole scenario is; and John Proctor, a hardworking farmer inadvertently drawn into the melee. John Joe Kavanagh gives Proctor such immense personal integrity and strength of character that he must be an epitome for Miller himself, or perhaps Walter Winchell who also showed his cojones before Congress.

THE CRUCIBLE will be on stage at the Oakville Centre for the Arts until Feb. 18th. It may be a scribbler’s diatribe to say ‘not to be missed’; redundant or not – it’s our recommendation!

*Kvell n, Yiddish.  To swell with pride; to appreciate other’s achievements; to feel honoured.

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