Monday, April 01, 1996

It’s Miller Time

Sean McQuaid’s review of The Crucible from the Buzz

April 1996— To quote Papa Smurf: “Amazing. Simply Amazing!” Darned if I can remember the last time a community theatrical production inspired such interest hereabouts. People were lined up to see Arthur Miller’s The Crucible long before the doors opened at the MacKenzie Theatre, by which time advance sales had already guaranteed a run of packed houses - even encore performances, which sold out as well! ACT (a community theatre) deserves a round of applause for what may be their most successful production yet.

Buzz writers have praised ACT’s grassroots inclusively, spirited teamwork and infectious energy before, so I won’t belabour the point herein. Suffice it to way, they’ve got a good thing going.

As for ACT’s Crucible, it’s a pretty good thing in its own right. Despite some very awkward blocking, overall direction and production values were good - particularly the skillfully controlled lighting, both electric and fire-lit.

For all its visual flames, though, the production often lacks emotional fire - notably David Sherren, who stars as Proctor. At times, especially in the early scenes, Sherren is inert. Body language, expression and projection are a blank, and the smoldering, tormented Proctor comes across as a sedated Richard Gere.

Fortunately, Dave shows some sparks in his later scenes - particularly in his big oratorical moments and interplay with other characters. His strong effort and the unsinkable script combine to keep the plays emotional power afloat, though intermittently.

Further undermining the script are fumbled lines, which may have improved during the run. On opening night, though, several actors stumbled over the script repeatedly - albeit seldom losing momentum, to their credit.

Projection is a problem for some, notably Sherren and Jennifer Anderson (Abigail) - a shame given the dramatic significance of their characters’ interplay and the sterling emotional quality of Anderson’s portrayal. She makes an excellent seductress, and her nicely calculated, accessibility transparent range of expression compensates for her occasional vocal weakness.

The actors sometimes go to the other auditory extreme - such as the many scenes involving hysterical females. Depending on the enunciation, screaming can be just as incomprehensible as whispering.

This production’s bedrock is a solid supporting cast, notably Mae Ames, Gerry Gray (love that accent), Ray Moore, Laurie Murphy, Mark Stevenson, Rob Thomson and Rebecca Black. These folks shore up the show with consistently strong performances in their respective roles.

The usually solid Ed Rashed, strangely, flounders through the first act as Parris - though he delivers some powerful moments as the repentant reverend in the end. Similarly, radio broadcaster Nils Ling seems unduly subdued as Reverend Hale. Neither actor seemed attuned to the intensity of the piece and his place in it, though both warmed to their roles as the story progressed - especially Rashed.

Specifics aside, this was a good production of a great play, garnering the greatest response to Island community theatre we’ve seen in some time. That in itself is a significant accomplishment, and with any luck, ACT will continue to pleasantly surprise us.

- Sean McQuaid

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