Here’s to the brave who wrestle with giants: the seminal works of American theater. They are an intimidating lot, and Arthur Miller’s The Crucible may be one of the most daunting. Kudos to the Camarillo Skyway Playhouse for putting up a fine production that honors the work and makes it their own.
Set during the 1692-93 Salem witch trials, Miller’s brilliant play is an allegory for McCarthyism and all the destruction and panic it set loose upon the United States in the middle of the last century. Yet here we are, in another particular moment in history, and The Crucible feels more relevant than ever.
In the play, Miller exposes the paranoia, hysteria and corruption fueled by “good people.” It doesn’t matter if they wear Puritan collars or 1950s Brylcreem. They could be dressed in athleisure. People are people. Our dark side — and our reluctance to see it — has always been there and perhaps always will be.
In a piece entitled, “Why I Wrote The Crucible” (The New Yorker, Oct. 13, 1996), Miller wrote, “What terrifies one generation is likely to bring only a puzzled smile to the next.” The Crucible, however, continues to be unsettling. Not in the monster-under-the-bed kind of way, but in the actual, real sense of neighbor turning upon neighbor, lies ruining lives and power running rampant. The brilliance of The Crucible is that it shows that history isn’t in the rearview mirror: It’s staring us in the face.
The large cast and crew are skillfully helmed by Brian Robert Harris. The first act lays the groundwork, but it is in the second act that the production really picks up steam, when the stakes rise and emotions reach a fever pitch.
There are several standout performances. Hayley Georgeanne Cariker is excellent as Abigail Williams — the scorned young woman who whips a small town into a murderous frenzy. Adam Womack is very good as John Proctor, the moral center of the play. Sarah Boughton is wonderful as John’s dutiful wife, Elizabeth Proctor. Other notable performers include Ron Rezac as Deputy Governor Thomas Danforth and Matt Mallory as Reverend John Hale — two men who are confronted by their own convictions.
The rest of the talented cast includes Bill Walthall, Jim Seerden, Scott Blanchard, Theresa Secor, Ashley Maimes, Sharyn Grose, Rosalee Calvillo, Ernest Calvillo, Maddie Boyd, Andy Brasted, Samantha Green, Benjamin Blonigan, Winter McLeod, Rita McCaffrey and Jim Diderrich.
The sparse set projects the lack of human comfort — both in the physical and emotional sense. Designed by John Alejo, it transforms effortlessly from Salem meeting house to the lovers’ corner of the woods. Lighting designer Leigh Hicks achieves a subtle yet effective look. Sound designer Allan Noel enlists the occasional use of recorded voices to stoke the tension. The light and sound operator, Maxine Alpert, make the visions of the girls a reality. Costume designer Lorna Bowen and props manager Laura Comstock outfit the sizable cast perfectly, with several lovely touches.
Together the cast and crew make the production well-worth seeing. The time flies and a powerful finishing touch adds to the poignant end. One line, beautifully delivered by Adam Womack, stays with us: “We are what we always were . . .” The masterful Arthur Miller leaves it to us to decide what that is.
The Crucible runs through May 5 at Camarillo Skyway Playhouse, 330 Skyway Drive, Camarillo. For tickets and more information, call 805.388.5716 or visit skywayplayhouse.org.