On Friday, I had the pleasure of attending the Connecticut Repertory Theatre’s production of Arthur Miller’s classic drama of paranoia and justice, “The Crucible.” After the show, I was able to talk with some of the cast and creative team who put this production together.
For those unfamiliar with the play, it follows the true story of the Salem Witch Trials, focusing mainly on John Proctor, a farmer who attempts to restore sanity to a town gone mad with fear, and Abigail Williams, the ringleader of the young women accusing their fellow townsfolk of witchcraft, both played excellently by Mauricio Miranda and Rebekah Santiago Berger, respectively. Miller wrote the play as a response to anti-communist paranoia spurred by the House Un-American Activities Committee and Sen. Joseph McCarthy. Miller equated the accusations of witchcraft in Salem to the modern blacklists against fellow writers and actors. The main message Miller conveys is of the dangers of favoring suspicion and baseless accusation over logic and reason. Assistant Director Eddie Vitcavage discussed the importance and relevance of Miller’s message.
“The Crucible will forever and always be relevant. We live in an era where there is a huge controversy over fact and fiction,” Vitcavage said. “This entire play tracks what is real, what is not real and how people go about protecting their names or sacrificing them for the lives of others. That almost 325-year gap between the time that it is set and now is just incredible to see how… We claim to be such a progressive society, yet we are still tackling the same issues.”
The UConn cast members did a fantastic job across the board, showing off the strength of their acting ability with such difficult subject material. Miranda explained his approach to playing the iconic role of John Proctor by saying that he relied most heavily on Arthur Miller’s words.
“I look at the words and see what his journey is from there,” Miranda explained. “I approach it just like I would any other character because if I start thinking about, ‘Oh, how do I approach ‘Hamlet’’ and ‘I’m going to do an awful job;’ trying to please the audience instead of just doing justice to the character.” Other standout student performances came from Rob Barnes as Rev. Paris, Tristan Rewald as Rev. Hale and Erin Cessna as Elizabeth Proctor.
While some parts naturally have greater focus than others, the entire cast was able to shine, giving the feeling of a realistic society composed of unique individuals. On the subject of the importance of smaller roles in the play, Nick Nudler (in the role of Judge Hathorne) discussed how Miller created opposing parties of social elites and dissenting voices, letting the smaller characters “serve a purpose in saying, ‘We are the ones who are saying no. We are the ones that are following the rules, and he is the one breaking them. We represent the rules.’”
The show also featured three cast members from the Actors’ Equity Association: Michael Rudko (in the role of Giles Corey), Sierra Kane, an MFA Actor (Ann Putnam) and James Sutorius (as Deputy Governor Danforth).
“The students have just been totally welcoming and open. This has been absolutely positive. There hasn’t been any sort of friction in terms of the way we work,” Rudko said about working with the actors in UConn’s drama program.
“It’s wonderful to be around that sort of energy and that sort of passion. It was a wonderful experience for me to work with them, and I can’t praise them enough,” Sutorius said in agreement.
I also had a chance to talk about the UConn Drama Program in a more general sense, discussing the importance of theater.
“It shows us the depth of humanity: difficult choices, how big a lie can be, how big a person’s personal dignity can be. Those kinds of choices, that’s why we do theater. That’s what I value most. We just go to the depth of humanity. That’s what I love about theater in general,” Michael Bradford, the artistic director of CRT and head of the department of dramatic arts, said. As for the Connecticut Repertory Theatre, “it’s that these students are making it happen, and I love them for it. That’s what I value most. It’s the work they put in,” Bradford said.
This is definitely not an event to miss. The show will be running until March 4 in the Nafe Katter Theatre. Tickets are still available, and I highly advise students to attend. Under the direction of Paul Mullins and a very talented crew, these actors have put together an excellent production of Miller’s play that is relevant and accessible. The whole show moved seamlessly and every actor was incredibly professional in bringing to life the complicated emotions and themes of the story.
Evan Burns is campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.