Classic Drama Alive Today at Wagon Wheel PDF Print E-mail
Saturday, 29 July 2017 20:34

  Midway in the annual summer theatrical season of music and dance and a lot of happy endings, the Wagon Wheel Theatre offers a change of pace with a classic American drama/tragedy that should be at the top of everyone’s “must-see” list.
  The Cfrucible  Wagon Wheel Theatre  Watsaw INIn making Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible” a part of its regular 2017 lineup, artistic director Scott Michaels was aware that it was a risk, but risk-taking has never deterred the award-winning director or the team of actor/directors Ben Dicke and Andy Robinson, whose annual behind-the-scenes effort is usually a comedy.
  Their determination has paid off in more ways than one.
  Not only is this production theater at its best and, in a dark way, incredibly entertaining, but it offers some of the best of this year’s company challenging roles, challenges to which they rise with naturalistic ease — even those with the most villainous assignments

The Crucible  Wagon Wheel Theatre  Warsaw INFor those who may not know, “The Crucible” combines historical fact and artistic license in telling the horrendous story of the 17th century Salem (Mass.) witch trials.   Playwright Miller admitted his Tony Award-winning play was an allegory for McCarthyism, but — listen. It is chilling how close 1953 was to 1692-93 and to the present day.
  It begins with Betty Parris (Cordelia Grandon) 8-year-old daughter of the Salem pastor, the Rev. Samuel Parris (Ben Ahlers) in a faint from which she rises only to scream. Parris demands to know what she was doing in the woods at night with a group of other young girls.

The answer is dancing, which Parris interprets as witchcraft. It results in the girls hiding their late-night outing by naming many others as witches.
Led by Abigail Williams (McKenzie Kurtz) the accusations spread and result is the arrest, “questioning” and eventual hanging of many of the good people of Salem and surrounding villages.

Abigail eventually accuses Elizabeth Proctor (Kira Lace Hawkins), wife of John Proctor (Riley McFarland), with whom Abigail had an affair. Elizabeth is questioned in her home by Reverend John Hale (Blake R. Bojewski), a reported expert on witchcraft.

As the list of accused lengthens, Deputy Governor Danforth (Mike Yocum) arrives to serve as judge. Slowly even the initial accusers become aware of the false charges but, once Danforth is on the bench, innocence is irrelevant and guilt is proven by the flimsiest proof and events attributed to “unnatural forces” and the fact that the accusers are “inno ent children.”

The Crucible  Wagon Wheel Theatre  Warsaw INThe final blackout offers some hope that the mass hysteria will subside and, finally, disappear. It eventually did, but its shadows remain and, even today, unhappily return in force.
Wagon Wheel season ticket holders may be those most aware of the excellent 2017 cast, having seen each in an extremely wide variety of roles. Even first-timers in the audience, however, will be unable to miss the richness of the performances.
Must first credit the primary players — Ahlers, Bojewski, Hawkins, Kurtz, McFarland, Yocum and Allsun O’Malley. The last was Mary Warren, the Proctors’ maid, who agreed to tell the truth then fell back under the spell of Abigail Williams.
The danger of even the slightest accusation was made obvious by Giles Corey (Michael Bradley) whose questions about books his wife was reading led eventually to her going to the gallows.
The directors’ decision to use hymns, sung acapella by the gathering ensemble, works beautifully throughout to smoothly underscore the fatal role religion played in the outcome of the witch trials.
The spare set, a raked platform seemingly constructed of wooden planks, was designed by technical director Jacki Anderson. It sets the mood immediately as do Stephen R. Hollenbeck’s earth-toned costumes. The excellent lighting design by Fritz Weaver makes one always aware of the dangers hidden in the shadows.
THE CRUCIBLE plays through Aug. 5 in the theater at 2517 E. Center Street in Warsaw. For performance times and reservations, call (574) 267-8041.
Last Updated on Saturday, 29 July 2017 21:50

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