Arthur Miller wrote The Crucible during the era of McCarthy hearings, when accusations of communist ties ran rampant. This play, set around the Salem witch trials in 1692, has become a classic statement against fear-mongering and mob behavior.
Insurgo’s production stays true to the period and features several notable performances. Ernie Curcio (as farmer John Proctor) seethes with passion and rage as the perfect foil for his icy wife. Breon Jenay (as Abigail Williams) plays the central instigator, and carries a glossy air of confident, almost flirtatious, manipulation. Candice McCallum shines as the slave Tituba, using a thick Barbados accent and the movement of a woman worn down by physical toil. Dave Surratt (Reverend Hale) expands his emotional range from previous performances as his character undergoes a change of heart. Sam Craner (aged significantly as Giles Corey) strays into caricature with a down-home accent and waggling eyebrows.
With a spare set and plain costumes, the focus stays unflinchingly upon the characters’ emotional turmoil. We’re glued to Proctor’s struggle to earn his wife’s forgiveness, and Abigail’s stubborn aim to send people to their deaths for her benefit.
Director Daneal Doerr uses the small space effectively, utilizing the atrium and central aisle to spread the action nearly into the laps of the audience. A projector shoots images of mob scenes and general destruction, possibly to distract the audience from set changes. However, it may be an unnecessary frill for a production so visually simple. With subject matter centered around mass hysteria, penitent husbands and possessed teenage girls, Doerr effectively steers the show away from overwrought melodrama, instead guiding her actors toward subdued emotional dialogue.
Full disclosure: Rosalie Miletich-Ellis has performed in Insurgo’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Salome.