Bearing False Witness – a review of “The Crucible”


By Michael Buzzelli

When suspicion falls on a group of women freely dancing in the woods, in the Puritanical town of Salem, the girls redirect their mischief and turn it into chaos in Arthur Miller’s iconic play, “The Crucible.”

Miller wrote “The Crucible” as a parable to his experience in the McCarthy era Red Scare, when he was asked to name members of the Communist Party, and, sadly, there are some parallels in modern society. In an uncanny and frightening side note: On opening night, Tennessee republicans accused and expelled two of three democratic representatives for speaking up in public about gun violence instead of listening to their disgruntled constituents.

In the play, Abigail Williams (Jackie Mishol) becomes the ringleader of the girls who foment hysteria throughout the town, accusing their neighbors of witchcraft (a sin punishable by death in Ye Olde Salem Towne).  Once she realizes she can get away with her falsehoods, she goes after Elizabeth Proctor (Tamara Siegert), wife of John Proctor (Brett Santry Sullivan) for personal reasons. Abigail feigns possession to carry out revenge on her, because she covets Elizabeth’s husband.  The elder Proctor had a secret affair with his former maid and Elizabeth cast Abigail out of their household when she found out.

In one of the most humorous moments of the play, Reverend Hale (a gender-swapped Brooke Echnat) asks John to recite the Ten Commandments and he can only remember nine, conveniently forgetting “Thou Shall Not Commit Adultery.”

John convinces Mary Warren (Maddie Kocur)  into confessing to taking part in Abigai’s conspiratorial scheme to save the life of his wife, and Hale begins to see through the Deception. Unfortunately,  the Judge (Isaac Miller) has let things gone on too far – and it’s resulted in many deaths in the community – he refuses to believe he’s been duped. John is sent to the gallows in place of his wife. If he confesses to consorting with the Devil, he will be saved, but he, and Rebecca Nurse (Apryl  L. Peroney) can’t confess to crimes they did not commit.

Tamara Siegert as Elizabeth Proctor in Vigilance Theater Group’s “The Crucible.” Photo by Sean Collier.

Director Renee Rabenold makes great use of the setting, North Park’s Parish Hill Barn, to create an immersive experience. Before the play begins, the women frolic in the forest surrounding the creaky, old barn.  Its a masterful use of the area.  The audience becomes enveloped by the story as they move around the structure, from scene to scene.

Fair warning: Opening night it was 42 degrees and a section of the play takes place outdoors (though under a covered shelter in case of rain).

The cast elevated the material. While Miller wrote the story in the 50s, the players gave viscerally charged performances.

Mishol was hypnotic as Abigail. While the character is a villainous harlot who condemns her fellow villagers, Mishol finds a sympathetic core – a young woman scorned by her former lover, who suddenly finds power in her voice – even if she uses it in an diabolical manner.

Sullivan Santry brought a hefty gravitas to John Proctor, effortlessly spitting out swaths of difficult dialogue, seamlessly.

Siegert plays the much-put-upon spouse with aplomb. Her character has to agonize over moral decisions.

There were fantastic performances by the entire cast.

Dylan Marquis Myers as a vile and hypocritical preacher, Reverend Parris, and Miller as the pompous and preening judge who will not stop citizens from dying because it would make him look foolish. Michael McBurney’s Giles Corey gives an impassioned speech to save the life of his unseen wife. The actor’s eyes water when he realizes he is losing her to the whims of an insane court proceeding.

Many theater critics have seen multiple iterations of this timeless  (and unfortunately timely) tale, but this version of “The Crucible” stands out as one of the best, telling the tale in an exciting and fresh manner.

The entire Vigilance Theater Group should be commended for bringing “The Crucible” back to life at yet-another critical juncture in our democracy.



“The Crucible” runs from April 6 to April 16 in and around Parish Hill Barn in North Park. For more information, click Here.


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