Gabriel Benson, Copy Editor
When I heard that the Augsburg theater department would be doing “The Crucible,” I was surprised along with many others on campus. Like, “The Crucible”? Really? Like, the play that every middle school did in awkward pilgrim costumes? That “The Crucible”? We’ve all seen the “‘Crucible’ Cast Party” skit on “SNL” with Lin-Manuel Miranda, right? People think “The Crucible” is totally lame!
When I went and saw “The Crucible” at Trinity Lutheran Church, I was nothing short of blown away. Having read the script and seen the movie with Daniel Day-Lewis and Winona Ryder before, I knew that to expect as far as plot. After all, the Salem Witch Trials happened over 300 years ago; there shouldn’t be any surprises.
This version of “The Crucible,” directed by Darcey Engen, took on a present-day flair. There was not a pilgrim costume in sight. By doing this, Engen knew that this “Crucible” would be unlike any other version of it since it was written in 1953. Not only did this differentiate it from other versions, but it also opened the door to modern-day interpretations of the play’s themes.
In her director’s note, Engen writes, “The play, at its core, asks us to examine whom we accuse and villainize in a community and why.” Engen brings up current social issues, such as DACA and the travel ban, and compares them to the McCarthy hearings of the 1950s and the Salem Witch Trials of 1692. “As we see our neighbors villainized and threatened,” Engen writes, “we can learn from this mid-century play.”
The first act of the play took place in an open space in Trinity’s basement. With the majority of the cast sitting in chairs on stage for the entrity of the act, there was an odd intimacy of everyone (audience and actors) being in such close quarters. At the end of the first act members of Salem village surrounded the audience, drowning us with accusations of whom had been seen with the devil.
The second act took place in front of the church basement’s kitchen. While some were wary of this choice, I found it to be effective for the most part. What this show gained in a unique theater space (Trinity Lutheran), it lost in the prime visibility that is usually afforded in regular theaters. The worried conversation between John Proctor (played by Mitch Ross) and Elizabeth Proctor (played by Madeleine Rowe) was elevated by an actual kitchen with the real hum of machinery.
The third act, the pièce de résistance, took place in the sanctuary. This act was a whirlwind of court proceedings, witchcraft accusations and death sentences. Despite knowing how the play ends, I found myself enraptured by the conflicting forces among Deputy Governor Danforth (played by Hannah Dyson), Rev. Samuel Parris (played by Aaron Halvorson) and Rev. John Hale (played by Lauren Syme). I found myself on the edge of my pew, my mouth open, as I once again saw these tragic trials play out.
If you didn’t have a chance to see “The Crucible,” you missed out. While I was admittedly skeptical of “The Crucible” walking in, Augsburg Theater unsurprisingly turned it out and exceeded my expectations. If you couldn’t go to the one-weekend run of the show, I would just ask Mitch Ross to say, “God is dead,” and hope that’s good enough.
This article first appeared in the Friday, April 13, Edition of The Echo.