The Crucible by Upper Darby High School in Drexel Hill, PA
November 2, 2016
Review submitted by Shelby Lenhart of Upper Merion Area High School
A fire once burned in Salem in 1693, and it burnt again at Upper Darby High School as they brought Arthur Miller’s prolific play The Crucible to life on their stage.
The gallows were never wanting of lives to take in Salem in the late 17th century as the infamous Salem Witch Trials plagued the small Massachusetts town. Arthur Miller’s timeless play is a creative, complex allusion at the scourge of the McCarthyism mindset of the 1950’s. The play follows the story of a town touched by madness and revenge as fingers point, leaving tragic hero John Proctor standing in its wake. The story details his harrowing journey of discovery and his battle to find sanity in a vengeful town.
The show featured intuitive staging, a dynamic ensemble, and creative use of space that rivaled even the most recent Broadway adaptation of the classic play. Students tackled the challenge of not only playing pious reverends, adulterous husbands, and sinful servants, but overcame it with a glorious outcome.
Rain Diaz, who played John Proctor, gave the character a raw, cathartic edge as he delivered his most poignant line, “God is dead!” His powerhouse performance drove the show with no lack of momentum. Paired with his tortured performance, Diaz provided the other half of a taboo chemistry with Abigail Williams, played by Gina Price. Her sadistic, sensual delivery of lines created a memorable, alluring character that could be both loved and loathed.
It would be a crime if Fabiola Alfred, who played the mystifying Barbados slave Tituba, was not mentioned. With the enchanting choreography of creating a potion, she captured attention and did not let it go, even despite her minimal appearance in the show. The girls of Salem, Abigail’s devout followers, were a natural part of the scene that added to the feel of judgment and childish mischief.
The beautifully constructed set allowed actors to use the space well, and the artistically designed lights lent a chilling ambiance to the show. The sound provided hymns, wind, and lush music to create a well-rounded, theatrical scene.
Upper Darby boldly accepted the challenge of such a famous show, and not only did it justice, but for a moment, embodied the spirits of those overtaken by the whirlwind of fear, jealousy, and defiance of Salem more than three centuries ago.
Review submitted by Trinity Pike of Upper Merion Area High School
Evil has taken Salem — but is it truly the Devil’s work, or is the source of the chaos much closer to home? Upper Darby High School desperately searched for the culprit in their compelling performance of The Crucible on Sunday evening.
Playwright Arthur Miller wrote this American classic to illustrate the frenzied paranoia of the Red Scare. In this small Puritan town, everyone knows each other too well. Petty grudges lead to false accusations, eventually erupting into a series of cruel executions.
Portraying the broad range of emotions motivating these harsh actions demanded mature sophistication from Upper Darby performers. The entire cast met the task, continuing to portray Salem citizens whether they were delivering lines or quietly shaping the atmosphere. Body language effectively paced the story through choreography and dialogue. Technical aspects highlighted the chemistry between actors while establishing the era’s anxiety.
Under the bizarre circumstances of Salem in panic, John Proctor (Rain Diaz) and Abigail Williams (Gina Prince) competed for leadership in a captivating dynamic. With organic, emotive gestures and tone, Proctor shifted gracefully between a grounded voice of reason and an anguished man furious at the witch trial executions. Williams was equally skillful as she extended Proctor’s suffering, waiting with madness in her eyes and a sinful smile for Proctor to accept her obsessive love. Targeted by Abby’s plot were Elizabeth Proctor (Rylee Curry), John’s wife, and Mary Warren (Gabi Greco), the Proctors’ servant, both of whom drew deep sympathy from the audience with breathtakingly convincing exclamations of sorrow.
Even characters with less frequent appearances portrayed nuanced personalities through vivid emotion. This made it especially heartbreaking to watch endearing old woman Rebecca Nurse (Cleo Hoey), motherly slave Tituba (Fabiola Alfred), and amusingly sarcastic Giles Corey (Mark LaVecchio) be sentenced to death by obstinate court authority Danforth (Mike Weir) as little girl Betty Parris (Genevieve Bruce) spiraled into insanity. Reverend Samuel Parris (Tom Geiger) and John Hale (Joe Gormley) both evolved from blindness towards the irrationality of accusations to fearful realization of the injustice behind the trials. While some line delivery was compromised by hurried speech, the consequences were minimal compared to the mesmerizing characterization accomplished by the ensemble.
Surrounding these talented performers was a versatile set that provided ambiance without imposing upon onstage developments. Salem’s modest wooden aesthetic grew ominous as red light leaked from floorboards in darkness, then returned to warm earthy textures during daytime scenes. Apt lighting and music choices amplified pivotal moments, revealing that careful thought contributed by all students involved. Strong visual cues and relevant soundtrack selections kept the story moving fluidly beyond microphone issues.
Explosive acting capability and tasteful technical choices combined to haunt audiences just before Halloween. Upper Darby High School’s unforgettable production of The Crucible left Abigail’s lethal gaze in the audience’s memory, warning many of the true power of a rumor.