WITCH RUNS LONG, BUT MAY BE WORTH WATCHING
by Kestryl Lowrey
published February 11, 2008
now playing Off Broadway through March 2
at the ArcLight Theatre
Seeing The Schoolhouse Theatre’s off-Broadway revival of The Crucible made me think of many things: I thought of the atrocities of history. I pondered the crushing power of rigid world-views. I
considered what I would have for dinner that evening. I ruminated on intolerance and mass
hysteria. I wondered what my tasks would be at work the next day, and whether or not I needed to
do laundry. Fear not, dear reader, that these varied considerations may have distracted me from
the production at hand. With the total running time clocking in at over three hours, my mind had
plenty of time to wander.
Such overwhelming duration can sometimes be credited to actors who, craving more exposure, stretch their scenes to the
limit. Fortunately, that cannot be blamed in this instance; director Pamela Moller is loath to
let the characters exit. Instead, they surround the playing space, sitting on benches in full
view of the audience. Needless to say, no one suffers for lack of stage time.
Length aside, the production is not without merit. There is wisdom in placing the
entire community constantly onstage in a play which is driven by the fears and taboos of that (striving to be) monolithic
group. Though pacing is not her strong point, Moller has managed to conjure a few inventive
images to augment the production, opening with the carnal, debauched dancing of the village girls, and closing with the implications of a
Arthur Miller’s script is so well-liked and frequently produced that it seems a waste of words to linger too long on it
here. The popularity of the play places a challenge for directors and the design team,
however, to give audiences something that they haven’t seen before. John Pollard’s set of
skeletal beams and weathered wood is evocative of 1692
Salem, without bludgeoning us into a period piece. Kim Matela made a strong choice in using bold,
bright colors for many of the costumes; I wish I knew what that choice was.
It’s true that courtroom drama occurs at a trudging pace, but The Crucible is not your
average legal fare. This play needs the fire of tempers flaring at unearned accusations and
the urgent velocity of a community driven by fear. Lacking such momentum, it’s difficult for
the show to hold the audience’s attention. When I wasn’t looking at my watch, I enjoyed the
production, but I was far from bewitched by it.
kestryl.lowrey @ stageandcinema.com