The Crucible at Walter Kerr Theater, should win the The 2016 Tony Award. The cast of this production has to be one of the bast that has ever performed the play. The message of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible resonates as powerfully today as it did when it was first performed in 1953. Every actor on stage is a master of the craft in what has to be an exhausting undertaking.
Saoirse Ronan stars as Abigail Williams, the girl who starts the witchcraft accusations that soon have the entire town of Salem at each others throats. Saoirse Ronan was recently nominated for (and in our opinion should have won) the Academy Award for Best Actress in her film Brooklyn.
Ben Whishaw is Thomas Putnam, the handsome married farmer who had a affair with Abigail, not understanding the deadly consequences of his actions. The interactions between Ben Whishaw and Saoirse Ronan are riveting to watch.
Veteran stage actor Jim Norton is Giles Corey, a crotchety old man who loves to make jokes about the strange habits of his wife. At first these are funny and have the audience laughing. However, in the poisoned atmosphere of witchcraft trials his jokes become a weapon that other people can use to attack his beloved wife.
Jenny Jules is the slave Tituba who is the first person accused of witchcraft. Although an uneducated slave, Tituba is clever enough to save herself by quickly confessing and then deflecting the blame to others.
There were also some very well known television actors on stage. Ciarin Hinds plays deputy Governor Dunforth who has the final word on who lives and who dies. Ciarin Hinds you will recognize as the “King Beyond The Wall” on Game of Thrones. His commanding voice and powerful physique make him the perfect actor to play the man who will make the ultimate decisions from which there can be no appeal.
Tina Benko plays Anna Putnam, a woman who is eager to blame the deaths of her babies on witchcraft. Tina Benko has true range as an actor. We last saw her as the embezzling ex-ballerina on Flesh and Bone.
Special mention must to go Tavi Gevinson. The acting skills of this young woman are astounding. She plays Mary Warren, a girl who accuses many of witchcraft and then tries to recant her story when she sees the terrible consequences of her lies. We were in the second row of the theater and Tavi was performing at the front of the stage no more than 5 feet from us. During her recantation testimony her tears were real and her trembling made us feel as if we were truly witnessing an individual having a nervous breakdown. We predict that Tavi Gevinson will go on to become a major screen and theatrical star.
The staging of the play was also very unusual and fascinating. Director Iva Van Hove chose to mix numerous time periods. Although supposedly taking place in Salem Massachusetts in 1692, many of the actresses are wearing what are Catholic schoolgirl uniforms from the 1950s. There are also numerous African-American actors playing officials who in 1692 certainly would have been White. The point, of course, is to show that hysteria, false accusations about and hatred of anyone considered “different” still exist in modern times and did not end in 1692.
The run of this play is almost complete. If you can get a ticket you should try. There is nothing like seeing actors at the top of their craft with no cameras or screens between them and the audience.
- We give The Crucible our highest rating of 5 Stars *****
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