“The Crucible” by Arthur Miller, the Grand Theatre, Wednesday-Saturday at 7:30 p.m. through March 24 with 2 p.m. matinees on Saturday and March 17, $10-$24, 801-957-3322 or www.the-grand.org
Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible” is required reading in many English literature courses, and on stage the 1952 play can be exhilarating. The masterpiece of theater writing is finely examined in the Grand Theatre’s exquisite production.
Along with layered emotional nuances, the actors roar with the ferocious intensity of clashing titans to immerse the audience in the full weight of the intricate yet finely crafted Tony-winning tragic play. While using the names of actual participants, Miller’s fictitious tale of the Salem witch trials in 1692 Massachusetts was designed as a cautionary corollary to the McCarthy hearings of the 1950s. The classic work is a searing parable of lies, vengeance and mass hysteria.
Under Mark Fossen’s taut direction, the actors of a wide range of ages, as young as middle school student Robin E. Young, offer splendid performances. Even in a familiar play, Fossen keeps emotions raw and suspense high until the heart-rending conclusion.
At the center of the accusations are David Hanson as farmer John Proctor and Sahara Hayes as servant girl Abigail Williams, with whom Proctor has a regretted dalliance. Hanson makes John good but imperfect — a hardworking man susceptible to temptation, but a man wanting to do what is correct. Hanson wears the face of a man shamed by sin who is struggling with faith and conscience. Hayes, a Westminster college sophomore, shows the desires of a girl on the cusp of womanhood while evoking vengeful evil.
Cassandra Stokes-Wylie brings dignity to the Elizabeth Proctor role. Max Robinson gives an impeccable performance as Judge Danforth. With matching skill, Tyson Richard Baker is a superb Rev. Hale. As elderly landowner Giles Corey, Richard Scharine brings a touch of much-needed humor. Rob Frederikson as Francis Nurse and Barb Smith as Rebecca Nurse impress. Toni Byrd’s searing performance as Tituba is a marvel.
The spare set works well when the proceedings are set in town, but more effort could have been made to stage the woodlands and jailhouse scenes. The costuming neatly defines the characters’ positions in the Puritan society.
In this production, audiences can relate to and even empathize with the people of Salem — not as characters in a play but as real people. At the Grand, “The Crucible” is an enviable achievement.