Many of us studied The Crucible in high school. Arthur Miller used the Salem Witch Trials of America’s 17th century to tell a pointed cautionary tale about Red Scare fears and McCarthy Hearings of his own America in the 1940s and 1950s. The Crucible proves itself resilient for our times as well.
In our world, Internet gossip leads to suicides, lies trade as fact in politics and false accusations lead to job dismissals (remember Shirley Sherrod?). We seem not to have progressed very far from the world of Abigail Williams and the dangerous teens of her times. The power of literature is its relevance across times.
Dignity Players intensifies the play’s power with some brilliant actors and — a hallmark of Dignity productions — sets, costumes and lighting so sparse that actors and their lines shine in the spotlight.
Tim King as John Proctor gets my best actor award. The shades of emotions he expresses are extraordinary. His journey — from self-assured superiority to awareness of danger; from moral doubts to fearful acceptance that, at all costs, he must protect the one thing only he can, his good name — is a fierce trajectory very few actors could sustain.
As Proctor’s wife Elizabeth, Darice Clewell matches King in intensity and subtlety. These two skilled actors know that reacting is almost more important than acting. They are fully immersed in their roles and poignantly believable and engaging throughout.
Jim Reiter takes a challenging role of the Rev. John Hale and makes this conflicted man of the cloth utterly realistic. Frank B. Moorman gives the villainous Deputy-Governor Danforth the gravitas he needs. Smaller roles by Joan Townshend (as Rebecca Nurse and Martha Corey), Mary MacLeod (as Ann Putnam and Lydia Nurse) and Katy McAllister Danckaert (as Francis Nurse and Sarah Good) are well acted, albeit a bit weaker in their unspoken reactions.
Fiji Ramunas as Mary Warren, the Proctors’ maid — who begins as one of the teenage accusers, recants, then reclaims her accusations — is very effective. Her capitulation to what we would now call peer pressure and bullying makes for a very nuanced performance.
Josette Dubois portrays Abigail Williams, the leader of the accusing girls, on twin notes of doting on John Proctor and seeking revenge on anyone who opposes her. Abigail needs a far more complex portrayal.
Director Mickey Lund has empowered his cast to speak beyond the 17th or 20th centuries to our times. This Crucible burnishes Dignity Players’ good name.
Playing Oct. 14 thru 16 at 8pm ThFSa; 3pm Su at Unitarian Universalist Church, 333 Dubois Rd., Annapolis. $20/FSa w/age discounts; $15/ThSu: 410-266-8044 x127; www.dignityplayers.org.