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The Crucible: A Play in Four Acts Paperback – March 25, 2003
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Under Martin Jenkins' direction, the brilliant L.A. Theatre Works actors give performances that are intense, chilling and deeply moving. --Tom Jacobs, The Daily News, April 10, 1988
At once an allegory of the 1950s' anti-communist witch hunts and a spotlight on seventeenth-century witch trials in Salem, Massachusetts, this play shows how ignorance and good intentions can interweave to destroy lives. The star-studded cast ratchets the tension to a disturbing level as the town disintegrates. The young girls playing at witchcraft shriek in irregular counterpoint to the quiet, terrifying judgments rendered by Reverend Harris (Michael York), and doubt is ever more audible in the voice of Reverend Hale (Richard Dreyfuss). Most moving is Stacy Keach as John Proctor, who fights to salvage some good from the trials that destroy Salem. --AudioFile Magazine --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
From the Inside Flap
Richard Dreyfuss and Stacy Keach star in this full-cast performance of Arthur Miller's classic The Crucible, a central work in the canon of American drama.
In the rigid theocracy of Salem, Massachusetts, rumors that women are practicing witchcraft galvanize the town. In a searing portrait of a community engulfed by panic - with ruthless prosecutors, and neighbors eager to testify against neighbor - The Crucible famously mirrors the anti-Communist hysteria that held the United States in its grip in the 1950's. A Tony Award Winner for Best Play.
An L.A. Theatre Works full cast performance featuring:
Richard Dreyfuss as Reverend John Hale
Stacy Keach as John Proctor
Ed Begley Jr. as Thomas Putnam
Michael York as Reverend Parris
Hector Elizondo as Giles Corey
Irene Aranga as Mercy Lewis
Rene Auberjonois as Deputy Governor Danforth
Georgia Brown as Rebecca Nurse
Jack Coleman as Marshal Herrick
Bud Cort as Ezekiel Cheever
Judyann Elder as Tituba
Fionnula Flanagan as Elizabeth Proctor
Ann Hearne as Susanna Walcott
Carol Kane as Mary Warren
Anna Sophie Loewenberg as Betty Parris
Marian Mercer as Mrs. Ann Putnam
Franklyn Seales as Judge Hathorne
Madolyn Smith as Abigail Williams
Joe Spano as Francis Nurse
Directed by Martin Jenkins. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
That is what is so scary about the Salem Witch Hunt. We must continue to remember this event in order to make sure it doesn't happen again.
I highly recommend this excellent work by Mr. Miller.
Arthur Miller wrote this play in 1953, in a not very subtle allegory about McCarthyism, another “witch-hunt” in America, but in the version of ’53, the “witches” were the communists, who were purportedly under every bed. One of my favorite quips was made by Voltaire: “It is amazing how few witches there are since we stopped burning them.” (Ain’t that the truth about the Communists too, now that they buy our T-Bills?)
Miller’s play is roughly based on the historical events in Salem, Massachusetts, and environs, which occurred in 1692-93. These events are commonly called the “Salem Witch Trials.” As a result of these trials, 20 individuals would be executed, 14 of whom were women. It was one more example, but a dominant one for American history, of mass hysteria and the dangers of a theocracy, be it how a few old men understand the “will” of a bearded one on a heavenly throne, or the “will” of a slightly more abstract notion of a “free-market.”
The play commences in the spring of 1692, with the Reverend Samuel Parris leaning over his daughter, Betty Parris, age 10, who is unconscious in bed. Is she physical ill or is it witchcraft? Miller thereafter introduces a number of other characters who live in, or near, this small frontier village. Abigail Williams is 17, and she had been caught dancing in the forest with Betty; in shades of Macbeth (Folger Shakespeare Library), they were purportedly dancing around a cooking pot. Were there toads in it? That is one of the questions asked. Tituba is a slave from Barbados, in her 40’s, who belongs to Reverend Parris, and can speak to the dead. Ann Putnam is a twisted soul of 45 who is haunted by dreams. Her husband, Thomas Putnam, is a man of grievances; his brother-in-law was denied the minister position and he was shorted in his father’s will, in favor of his stepbrother. Proctor, the protagonist, in his middle 30’s, an independent farmer, skeptical of the preachers, and the overall role of religion, and with a sick wife, Elizabeth. Proctor has the eye for Abigail, and she flaunts it. Mary Warren, a 17 year old subservient, lonely girl, works for Proctor, and his wife, as a maid. Rebecca Nurse, 72, 11 kids, lots of grandkids, with her husband, Frances, form their own town of Topsfield, near Salem. There is the itinerant preacher, Reverend Hale, and, the actually judges and bailiffs.
Like that proverbial cooking pot in the forest, the above characters form a heady mixture, with those eternal concerns of money, community status, power, and sex. Miller brilliantly stirs the pot. Abigail Williams is “not without sin,” to use the Biblical phrase, but she is the prime stone thrower, hurling the charge of “witchcraft,” while manipulating a youthful “Amen” chorus. Such charges fall upon the fertile ground of “land-lust,” with the principles being the Putnam’s and the Nurse’s. And there is just plain ol’ lust, between Proctor and Abigail. Miller does “nuance” by having Proctor’s wife, Elizabeth, state: “I have sins of my own to count. It needs a cold wife to prompt lechery.” The power of hysteria is incisively depicted in the scene where Abigail sees “the bird,” and Mary Warren recants. It requires the abuse of authority, in terms of power-crazed judges, to fulfill the tragedy. In one of the asides, Miller states: “… the people of Salem developed a theocracy, a combine of state and religious power whose function was to keep the community together…the witch-hunt was a perverse manifestation of the panic which set in among all classes when the balance began to turn toward greater individual freedom.”
History does not repeat, but it does rhyme, as the old quip has it. Murky, no doubt forever, “Operation Phoenix” in Vietnam led to the death of truly an uncounted number of Vietnamese civilians, with an estimate as high as 50,000 in Binh Dinh province alone. That “pot” was spiced up by Americans who could not speak the language, but were all too willing to accept the word of one Vietnamese farmer against another, who was denounced as “a communist.” Rhyming again in Afghanistan, where such farmer denunciations of “terrorists” lead to an all-expenses paid trip to Gitmo. And as I write this, the Democratic Party in the USA is searching for “witches” to explain its recent electoral loss, and coming full circle as it were, a leading “witch” is a former Russian commie.
Miller has written a play for all the ages, and provided an eternal lament that is the subject line. 5-stars, plus.