I am drawn to describe the experience of The Crucible, directed by Sharon Andrews, as intense, though I hesitate to do so. On one hand, the nature of its narrative, focused on the chaos of rapidly spreading fear, misinformation, accusation and spite, is grounded in a world in which characters are attempting to understand and control a rapidly unraveling community, and is in that way quite intense. But I do not want to imply that the construction of the show — its staging and performances — are similarly unwieldy in an uncontrolled sense. As I’ve come to expect, each role was honed in a way that gave each character a distinct personality. As basic as that may sound, convincingly becoming another person is a matter of detailed external and internal study that I think was executed particularly well in this production of The Crucible; each character was clearly motivated in a unique way, and to see their personalities mingle and clash was probably my favorite aspect of the show.
Though, of course, it wasn’t only the characters that were impressively constructed. The set itself made compelling use of materials and light, the most immediately noticeable one being the dozens of hanging ropes, spaced and aligned intently to designate a ceiling, a wall, a threshold or something more abstract, but always keeping one keenly aware of that which threatens the characters living in that space; a death by hanging looms just the same as those ascending and descending strands.
Similarly, the use of light was dynamic in implying certain aspects of the setting or atmosphere. It worked with the unconventional backdrop (unconventional in that it didn’t depict any specific scenery, but was rather a dark, irregular surface) to make feelings of despair, fear and love more engrossing and inherently perceptible.
I worry that you may not find talk of the specific and technical aspects of the show to be very interesting, but I want to express the wonderful way in which those aspects build upon each other and create one cohesive, engrossing space. I find this show to be a wonderful example of the possibilities of a theatrical production, that which has inherent limitations, namely in regard to space, and how creativity can be such a powerful tool in addressing technical issues as much as artistic ones.
It’s interesting to me that so much work is put into such numerous and small parts for the primary purpose of making that effort unnoticeable. And, in fact, the more attention that has been put into the details, and the more control that is produced as a result, the more naturally audience members can find themselves inside the world of the show.
I had the opportunity to lend a hand in constructing the set, which only helped make it more clear the amount of work that goes into a show like The Crucible. I learned a new meaning for the word scab; I learned the fault in calling a caster a wheel; I learned how to avoid breaking a drill bit (after learning what breaking one looks like), and still, the effort I put into helping construct a part the show, while I hope it was valuable, was but a tiny fraction of the total process. This was made abundantly clear when I saw the finished set. The barren, wooden platform I had a small part in building had become a textured, colorful surface: the brick floor upon which the members of the show danced, fought and fell. The four hours I spent drilling was one of the many small steps that went toward creating one of the many aspects that made this show feel positively alive.
Being built out of an endless amount of component parts to eventually become a cohesive being made to entertain makes the theatrical production as much a machine as it is an animal. And while there is much to see and appreciate in that foundation that supports the narrative and its performances, I’m not suggesting you focus on that if you chose to see the show (which, of course, I recommend; there are show times for Thursday through Sunday). Yes, value the work, coordination and passion that goes into creating a show like this from the ground up, but don’t let that distract you from that which it is trying to accomplish by doing so. Allow yourself to be lost in The Crucible’s world of fear, anger and love. Hear what the story is saying, let the characters move you, enjoy the drama. Because, that experience you get to live as the viewer, as I’m confident the many people who had a part in producing the show would agree, is the point of it all.