“I danced for the Devil”

Does this sound familiar: rabid anti-gay rights activist caught making pass at a man in washroom – admits he is gay. The accuser being guilty of what he accuses others of – this is a part of the many layers of guilt in The Crucible. Guilty of one crime you are guilty of all crimes. Accusation = guilt. Being innocent doesn’t undo the stain of the accusation. The Crucible functions on many levels – the use of authority is more important that justice, the denial of guilt is really an admission of guilt.

My last theatre day trip to Stratford was to see Arthur Miller’s The Crucible. A play about witches in October – what a concept 🙂 The production was intense, riveting & the political allegory hasn’t dated a bit. Except these days many don’t care about guilt if the guilty are rich enough – a president can admit to ‘grabbing pussy’ (underage beauty contestants should be flattered he grabbed their privates) & is still in power. But I digress.

The simple set with side pieces of tall trees moves silently & easily to accommodate several locations. The ambient sound before the play starts create a a sense of forest. Once the plays starts with the ‘possessed’ child (nice nod here to ‘The Exorcist’) it moves with constant intent & mounting emotional & physical intensity.

The performances were strong for a cast who clearly enjoyed these characters, had dug deep into the text itself, & gave unexpectedly raw performances. Tim Campbell as John Proctor & Scott Wentworth as Reverend Parris gave amazing performances – perhaps the best I’ve seen by Scott Wentworth. I was drawn into the dense emotional mire both men were feeling on opposite sides of the conflict.

Shannon Taylor as Elizabeth Proctor was strong – her moment of ‘truth’ brought gasps from the audience. The tempted ‘girls’ lead by Katelyn McCulloch as Abigail Williams were given great dramatic moments of demonic possession. Katelyn was good but was more saucy than vengeful. They were women not girls or children, as they were referred to on the text.

I had seat in 4th row orchestra so had a very close view of the superb costumes plus I was impressed by the meticulous wig work. This is an excellent production, perhaps the best I’ve seen this season & one of the most compelling I’ve seen of stage in some time. Jonathan Goad’s direction brought performances that were deeply effective & made a challenging text engaging & challenging at the same time. 

“I danced for the Devil; I saw him, I wrote in his book.” Arthur Miller

other 2019 reviews:

Costume Warehouse Tour – Me? Caped Crusader https://wp.me/p1RtxU-3vQ

Henry VIII – ‘Abject Object’ https://wp.me/p1RtxU-3vW 

Our Father Issues  https://wp.me/p1RtxU-3CB

Cape Breton (Liberation Army) Day 7 https://wp.me/p1RtxU-3Gj

Mae Brecht’s Sex https://wp.me/p1RtxU-3ND

Plant Food For Thought https://wp.me/p1RtxU-3Oo

Hey! Now you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & 2020 theatre tickets. Thanks paypal.me/TOpoet 

A Changeling For the Better

I’m grateful that the Stratford Festival focuses on rarely produced English dramas & comedies that give Shakespeare’s work more of a context. One of these productions in this year’s The Changeling by Thomas Middleton & William Rowley. I enjoyed the show and would recommend it for the performances of the leads alone. Ben Carlson as De Flores is outstanding. Mikaela Davies as Beatrice-Joanna is intense and at times even a little frightening as she slips from manipulated to manipulator. Tim Campbell as Lollio brought much appreciated comic relief & a gifted command of double-entendre.

Written in early 1600’s this piece is one of the ones that established the use of physical deformity as a reflection of inner evil. In this production nevus flammeus on half of De Flores face. This demonization of physical disability is still evident in our culture’s reaction to otherness – though it has become more of an infantilization – treating the disabled as if they where children incapable thought or, as in fiction, letting their difference make them into spiteful, evil villains or saints.

I was also struck by the fear of women’s sexuality. Beatrice-Joanna begins by protecting her purity – her virginity – but once it surrendered the pleasure she takes in sex becomes a reflection of her evil. Clearly things haven’t changed much since 1600. Slut shamming & head-shaking over a woman enjoying or reclaiming her right to enjoy sex still goes on & on & on. Of course Beatrice-Joanna suffers appropriately both for her crime and for her sexual pleasure.

The staging was simple & effective with a set that morphed with lighting from church, to asylum, to street, to castle hall. It didn’t detract from the action. Costumes reflected the production being set in 1938 Spain – a time when Spain was going though political change & turmoil – like eh factor sin the playing going though emotional change & turmoil. I did find the opening scene’s rebel exchanging secret notes very distracting – it pulled focus from the dialogue with business that added nothing to the text.

I have to mention the smart, subtle, references to David Bowie, and Bob Dylan in the program notes. Two modern performers whose careers underwent constant & sometimes unpredictable changes – much like what the characters in The Changeling go through.

The notes mention another Middleton (with Thomas Dekker) play – The Roaring Girl, about the crossing-dressing Moll Firth, deserves a proper revival soon. I’d highly recommend The Changeling – an excellent production with more present day resonance than one might expect.

Hey! Now you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy coffee in Washington at 2018’s capfireslam.org – sweet,eh? paypal.me/TOpoet