Thursday, July 23, 2015

reviews - THE CRUCIBLE - Desert Foothills Theater

Brad Cashman and Kelly Hajek
Photo: Jeremy Andorfer 
highlights from local critics reviews - (click link at bottom of each review to read complete review)

Click here for more information on this production that runs through July 26th.


"The cast of Desert Foothills Theater's Youth Advanced Drama Project is presenting a terrific production of Arthur Miller's classic 1953 play The Crucible, the end result of their summer intensive training. Miller's semi-fictionalized story of the Salem, Massachusetts, witch trials of the 1690s was his response to the era of McCarthyism..The profound similarities between the Salem witchcraft trials and the McCarthy witch hunt are very apparent and Miller's drama is a stunning exposé into the aftermath of what can happen when fear outweighs facts. ...When Reverend Samuel Parris's daughter Betty is afflicted by a strange illness, it doesn't take long for a group of young girls to start spreading rumors throughout Salem that it is due to witchcraft. The girls have been caught dancing naked in the woods, with the slave Tituba chanting around a pot, so they need some explanation to cover their actions. Caught up in the accusations and lies is John Proctor, a farmer who once had an affair with the leader of the young accusers, Abigail...With superstition outweighing facts, and the only two routes for those accused being to either confess or be hanged, it shows how the scheming of a group of young girls, or any group of adamant people, can snowball into a frightening outcome that still resonates today....Scott Johnson has assembled a cast who embody their parts with as much conviction as the young girls of Salem did with their accusations. Brad Cashman is passionate, strong, emotional, and heartbreaking as Proctor. Kelly Hajek is equally as good in the smaller part of his wife. As the two main teenage girls whose desperation turns to the downfall of others, Jamie Bornscheuer and Ashley Shirley are full of fire and deceit as Abigail and Proctor's housekeeper, Mary Warren, respectively. When Shirley matter of factly states "It's God's work that we do," in reference to the allegations they are making, with a steadfast gleam in her eyes, it clearly shows not only how scary the situation is but that she also actually believes what she is saying....While Miller's play was originally staged in the period of the Salem witch trials, DFT's production updates the setting to the times of the McCarthy trials, which doesn't really add much to the proceedings, but doesn't detract either, and it does nicely tie the two infamous events together. Johnson's direction is clear with good use of the entire small space. He also incorporates sound and light at appropriate times that combine with the intimate venue to elevate the emotional aspects of the drama to a fever pitch, adding to the impact of the script and this production...Just as powerful today as I have to believe it was when it first premiered during the McCarthy era, The Crucible at Desert Foothills Theater is a worthy production of a stunning piece of literature.' -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)


Fear and superstition have been the fuel for mass hysteria and witch hunts as far back as 15th Century Europe. In the United States, the wicked dynamic, from time to time, has taken its toll on the soul of this nation, no more dramatically and pervasively than in the witch trials of 17th Century Salem Massachusetts and then in the 1953 halls of Congress during the ruthless Red-baiting tenure of Wisconsin Senator Joseph McCarthy....These two historical moments are the seeds of Arthur Miller's The Crucible, an allegory whose relevance sixty-two years after its Broadway premiere is as potent as ever, now on stage at Desert Foothills Theatre....One does not perform this play or watch it without being chilled to the bone and transformed by the understanding of what evils flow from false witness (reference the Ninth Commandment). With a raw authenticity that derives from the astute and inspired direction of Scott Johnson and their own fresh and untainted interpretation of their characters, the young cast of this production gives weight and urgency to Miller's words. It is a worthy culmination of DFT's Advanced Acting Workshop in which the performers are fully immersed in all aspects of the theatrical experience....As The Crucible boils to tragic denouement, we are reminded of the casualties of mindless persecution and we hail this young cast for breathing fire into Miller's memorandum...." -Herbert Paine, Broadway World (click here to read the complete review)

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