Review: ‘The Crucible’ by Lumina Theatre Company

It’s a witch hunt! Witches, whores, collusion, and corruption, peppered with a bit of witness tampering, threaten the dreams of small-town America in Lumina Theatre Company’s inaugural production of The Crucible. The parallels of this Arthur Miller classic with current events are as obvious as when it was first staged during the McCarthyism era of 1953. Part the curtain of this obvious low-hanging fruit, however, and Lumina’s production offers a distinctly deeper point of view; not as that of observers of history and political events, but as engaged participants, as judge, juror, and sometimes defendant of our own deepest desires and wishes.

The cast of Lumina Theatre Company's production of The Crucible. Photo by Gina Abel.
The cast of Lumina Theatre Company’s production of The Crucible. Photo by Gina Abel.

The plot began to boil from the opening scene in an intensely mystical dance of illusion in Salem, Massachusetts, in the events leading up to the Salem Witch Trials. Mounting the play within a black box theater was highly suitable and effective. The unique choices made by Director/Producer Meghan Hackett beautifully allowed the actors’ movement and emotion to tell the story and engage the audience. The raw scenic design, costume color, and lighting design decisions mirrored the time and place, while enhancing the theme of inner reflection without distracting the senses. The effective use of light and sound is praiseworthy.

This often spellbinding and emotional production showcases a phenomenal cast of talented actors, including experienced and novice talent of all ages, some of whom are family members. Hypnotizing was the girl who cried “witch!” Marnie Kanarek in the role of Abigail was bewitching as a shape-shifter from demon to victim. Her vivid, expressive eyes and near-telepathic acting still haunt me.

The human struggle between Abigail and the Proctors form the center of the turmoil as the story unfolds. Tom Piccin as John Proctor provided a raw and unsettling performance as Proctor struggles to free himself from the seductive and strangling web cast over his marriage by domestic service girl, Abigail, and their secret tryst. Piccin navigated his demanding character with precision and mastered an emotional transcending tranquility by the show’s conclusion, aided by his artful exchange with Emma Hackett, who plays his wife, Elizabeth Proctor. Hackett’s confident and convincing portrayal of Elizabeth moved the emotional needle from fear to hope as she guided the cast, as with an invisible hand, to the portal of resolution.

The Crucible is well-known as a political play, premiering on Broadway in 1953 and running for 197 performances. The Salem witch hunt story symbolizes the anti-communist hysteria taking place when Miller wrote it. Being the only playwright at the time to publicly critique the subversive and repressive political activities taking place, Miller himself was called to appear before Senator Joseph McCarthy at hearings.

The American Dream is the invisible backdrop for The Crucible, in which this murky tale teaches us the law of polarities, where the flipside of good is evil, light is dark, yet through which guilt can become hope. The Crucible remains an unapologetic indictment of our nation’s most powerful players, yet through Miller’s perspective, we learn it is only through the heart and spirit of the ordinary man that we find our power to hope and resolution.

Marnie Kanarek as Abigail in Lumina Theatre Company's production of The Crucible. Photo by Gina Abel.
Marnie Kanarek as Abigail in Lumina Theatre Company’s production of The Crucible. Photo by Gina Abel.

The Crucible proved to be an enormously entertaining and provocative inaugural production by Lumina Theatre Company. What began as a spark in the dark, this production concluded with a glistening tear of truth. Within ourselves, we grasp the power of the concluding verdict that our true name is our inherent goodness.

Running Time: Approximately two hours and 45 minutes, with a 15-minute intermission.

The Crucible, presented by Lumina Theatre Company, played November 30 – December 2, 2018, at The Black Box Theater, 8510 High Ridge Road, Ellicott City, Maryland.