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By Scott Rasmussen, Journal editor
Autumn’s arrival ushers in a familiar cast of characters.
Falling leaves. Shorter days. Longer shadows. Cooler temperatures. Political campaigns.
And in the world of the dramatic arts, perhaps nothing declares the arrival of fall quite as profoundly as American playwright Arthur Miller’s Tony Award winning play, “The Crucible”. The change of seasons isn’t the sole reason that director Susan Williams chose to take on Miller’s classic tale of mass hysteria, witchcraft and redemption, but the timing does fit.
“I don’t think I’d want to do The Crucible in the spring,” Williams says with a chuckle. “I do think of it as an autumn play, without a doubt.”
With Williams at the helm, San Juan Community Theatre’s production of “The Crucible” begins its two-week run this Thursday; the curtain goes up at 7:30 p.m. Performances are Thursday through Saturday, in the evening, with two Sunday matinees.
Williams says she was drawn to the play partly because of its thought-provoking look at repression, written by a man considered by many as the greatest America playwright of all time. While Miller’s dramatization of the 17th century Salem witch trials may not be as widely known as “Death of a Salesman”, possibly his grandest work, The Crucible’s timely, incisive and scathing portrayal of a more modern day witch hunt, the search for and blacklisting of supposed communist sympathizers by congressional investigating committees led in the Senate by then Sen. Joe McCarthy, still rings true today, Williams said.
“I think it’s continual,” she said says of one of the play’s primary themes, finding blame for things that we, as human beings, don’t understand. “I think that speaks to us all, and is something we need to revisit over and over.”
The production stars Daniel Finn in the role of John Proctor, Eric Concord as deputy governor Thomas Danforth, Sarah Clark as Mary Warren, and Amanda Lee Smith in the role of the “duplicitous” Abigail Williams. The set, designed by Therese Finn and fashioned by Lyn MacPherson, is a show-stopper in itself. Dominated by giant trunks of dark grey trees, no real limbs or foliage whatsoever, Williams chooses the word “austere” in describing the set. One might say “foreboding” or “spooky” might hit closer to home, but regardless of word choice, set and lighting match the play’s dark tone perfectly.
Despite its dark and emotional subject matter, Williams notes that, like all great tragedies, The Crucible, in the end, also makes a statement about the power of unconditional love and redemption.
“It’ll be an experience,” she said. “And hopefully a subject that people will talk about on the way home.”
It’s a safe bet that they will.
The SJCT Box office is open Tues-Fri, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturdays, 2 p.m., and one hour prior to any show. For info, 378-3210, or www.sjctheatre.org.