I Saw the Evansville Civic Theatre Production of ‘The Crucible’ with the Devil! (REVIEW)
Things get real dark in The Crucible.
Yesterday, I had the pleasure of seeing the latest Evansville Civic Theatre show, The Crucible. I had never seen nor read the book, so I didn't know what to expect. All I kept hearing people say was how long it was. Luckily, by knowing in advance the length, I was able to prepare to sit for almost 3 hours and witness the show that was about to unfold. And I'm really glad the length didn't discourage me, because the cast did a fantastic job with The Crucible and I really enjoyed it.
If you went to high school, you know The Crucible as a book you had to read if you wanted to graduate. I won't go too much into the plot details as most people are familiar with them already. I will, however, note some of the subtle changes director Kevin Roach brought to the show, all which enhanced the overall production value of the play.
Roach opens the show by projecting onto the curtains the Communist Accusation tapes post-Cold War, conveying an early message of "The more things change, the more they stay the same." From there, we meet out principal cast including Zach Tieken as John Proctor, Olivia Schaperjohn as Abigail Williams, Katie Ivie as Mary Warren, Meagan Leavitt as Elizabeth Proctor, and Aaron Stofleth as Reverend Parris. Each of these cast members gave an outstanding performance. What was equally impressive, was the ages of some of the cast members. Katie Ivie is still in high school and gave an incredibly vulnerable and conflicted performance to Mary Warren, demonstrating acting chops of someone far older. It was refreshing to see actors portraying characters who were the same age. The Crucible deals with teenage girls, so it was nice to not have to suspend my disbelief on the ages of the actors ala Beverly Hills 90201la (seriously, Jason Priestly was at least 63 when his character finally graduated high school on that show).
The stand-out performance for me is a tie between Zach Tieken and Olivia Schaperjohn. Tieken as John Proctor takes the audiences places in a grueling performance. By the end, you feel terrible for everything he's gone through, even if it was partially his fault. Proctor made mistakes, regrets them, yet, wants to make things right. Even when he's lying to save his own life, you feel the struggle he's going through. This wouldn't have been possible without Tieken tapping into different level of performance.
On the other hand, I have yet to meet a character this year as conniving and unlikable as Schaperjohn's Abigail Williams. And I mean that in the nicest way. The way she is able to manipulate everyone around her to the point where the entire female population is accused of witchcraft is masterful. The subtle facial expressions and reactions she has to other characters were spot on. As an audience member, you want to yell "SHE'S MAKING ALL OF THIS UP!" which is the kind of reaction you want to invoke in an audience. She's also the real MVP for crying huge tears during her breakdown scene. I've seen a lot of theatre and very rarely have I seen someone "go for it" as hard as she did.
I really enjoyed the performance of Aaron Stofleth as Reverend Parris. He's the 1692 equivalent of a televangelist who is ultimately only out to help himself, which Stofleth performs with slithery charm. I have to give kudos to Kurt McWilliams' John WiIllard for his exasperated shrug when things go south. It perfectly displayed how the audience was feeling.
One thing that Roach brought to the show, were musical overtures that synced up with the action on stage. Whenever Abigail would start telling lies, the underlying music really sucked the audience in to what was happening. It was a very nice touch. It should also be noted that Roach, who directed the show, stepped in to fill the role of Deputy Governor Danforth on a weeks notice after the original actor dropped out. That's the definition of leadership, and honestly, the performance was probably better for it, having a seasoned actor take on that role. It's a reminder, as well, that even on a week's notice, Kevin Roach is still better than a lot of actors currently working.
The only criticism I have of the show is the the actual show. You probably know going in whether or not you enjoy The Crucible. It's not a show for everyone. The play can take time to get going and at times can be very wordy. Some might feel that nothing is happening or that the show is too long. If you're willing to give the show a chance, I think you'll really enjoy the performance that Evansville Civic Theatre has put together.
Overall, I really enjoyed my first time experiencing The Crucible. The cast expertly executed a show that is tough to pull-off. You have three more chances to see this show this coming weekend. You can get all the details by clicking here. Also, I hope I get an invite to the cast party, because it looks like it's going to be LIT!