The Crucible, TimeLine Theatre Company. Arthur Miller’s 1953 play ostensibly examines the outbreak of suspicion that prompted the Salem witch trials in 1692. But he intended that hysteria-driven violence to recall the witch-hunts of the McCarthy era. Today, with America at war and the mentality that “you’re either with us or against us” again strong, Miller’s play reverberates more powerfully than ever. Calling for tolerance and common sense, The Crucible condemns groupthink and power that’s wielded with the absolute authority of blind faith.
TimeLine Theatre and director Nick Bowling make this timeless play all the more provocative in a gripping interpretation. Bowling may have some difficulty moving his large cast around Heather Graff and Richard Peterson’s set–the space is small–but the cast are consistently strong, presenting with equal honesty and force the puritanical beliefs of 17th-century zealots and their victims’ fear and anger. David Parkes is particularly inspiring as the heroic John Proctor, a skeptic plagued by his wife’s suspicion and his own adulterous guilt. P.J. Powers adeptly conveys the way Reverend Hale’s certitude is transformed into self-doubt, and Jenny Friedmann is a viper as the fiercely proud young Abigail, ringleader of the “afflicted” girls who condemn the community’s witches. Gary Simmers and Gita Tanner also stand out as the timidly weak Reverend Parris and the morally stout Elizabeth Proctor.