by Lorie Lewis Ham
While magic and witches have gained a lot of popularity in TV, movies and books over the last 20 years, especially since Harry Potter hit the scene, the story of the Salem Witch Trials has been around since the 1600’s and is something most people are familiar with. This story is brought to life in Good Company Players’ production of The Crucible now on stage at Second Space in Fresno.
The Crucible is a Tony Award winning play written by Arthur Miller in 1953, based on the story of those trials. It has been read by high school students in English class for many generations and is a powerful story of how fear, gossip and vengeance can bring about horrific consequences. Recently it hit the stage at Good Company Players’ Second Space and I’d have to say this show is still relevant and moving after all these years. While we may not hang people for being witches anymore, gossip and fear still cause many terrible things to happen even in a supposedly enlightened 2011.
“I have loved this show since I had to repeat a high school English class in the summer and my teacher Lana Roberts had us read the Crucible in class,” said Crucible director S. Eric Day.
Day’s connection to this play has continued ever since that English class. He played the leading male role of John Proctor while at Fresno State, directed it while teaching drama at University High School, and for what was Cynthia Merrils School for the Performing Arts (now Cal Arts Academy). “I have been wanting to direct for Good Company Players for years and when Crucible ended up on this season I threw my name in the hat and Dan Pessano felt like this was a good fit.”
“The Crucible is near the top of our list as far as a well crafted play that makes you think about how the subject matter relates to what is going on in the world right now,” said GCP Managing Director Dan Pessano. “The aspect of the play that I most enjoy is in knowing the background in which Arthur Miller wrote the script and watching how the ‘witch hunt’ (or McCarthy trials) made a shamble of peoples lives. Even today, in every political campaign, there exists the use of the ‘big lie’ to produce fear, making people out to be ‘witches’ in an effort to sway the votes.”Since my daughter had read the play in school I was familiar with it and was of course familiar with the Salem Witch Trials, however this was my first time seeing The Crucible and I have to say that GCP did not disappoint. While the sets were simple the story was powerful and Jessica Knotts as Abigail Williams, the instigator of the horror, and Eric Orum as John Proctor, the focus of this young girls obsessive love, where both incredible. These two actors impressed me to the point that I will actually be looking for other shows that they are in, in the future—they truly brought these characters to life. Second Space is a very intimate theatre venue and was the perfect setting for this play as it put it right there in your face.
“The challenge to this production is there are over 20 cast members and fitting them into an arena type setting can create site line issues for the audience,” said Day. “And yet at the same time it gives a more intimate feeling for the audience.”
I would highly recommend this play; though keep in mind the seriousness of the subject matter. This is not one you leave singing a happy song—it’s one that makes you think.
The Crucible continues through April 17. For more information on times and tickets, check out GCP’s Second Space theatre page here at KRL.