“And I’d be a good Abby,” one said to another.
“And, like: it’d be a fun part,” said the latter in reply. “Y’know? Like, you seduce John Proctor, and lie.”
I offer the above, that I heard – okay, overheard – on the subway not a week ago, as anecdotal evidence that The Crucible – running to October 13th at Ryerson’s Abrams Studio Theatre – is one of a handful of plays frequently chosen for performance.
So, I had this feeling that there might be some complacency surrounding its production.
Boy, was I off.
The experience, watching Ryerson Theatre School’s production of The Crucible was, for me, akin to riding in the passenger seat of a powerful sports car.
For one thing, the Abrams Studio Theatre fits a tiny audience, and has a very big playing area. So I was just an arm’s length from the actors – the engine of the play.
For another, because there is no platform for the performers, and with the seating barely two or three feet above them, what was going on was directly ahead of me, so I felt a visceral connection to it.
And more than anything, at the intermission I found myself talking with my theatre partner about the speed of the delivery.
For a comparison, think of last year’s film True Grit, and how quickly the unfamiliar vernacular rolled off Hailee Steinfeld’s tongue as though it were nothing. Take a tip-top level performance like that, and apply it to a two-and-a-half hour play.
To be sure though, neither of my theatre partner nor I would refer to this production as fast.
The wayArthur Miller constructed this play, with a long wind-up to the central conflict, at least a half-dozen fully developed characters in a cast of maybe eighteen, and several demanding ensemble scenes that could eat most one-act plays for lunch, meant the play could not be rushed.
That said, the Ryerson Theatre School production proves there is a lot of efficiency to be found in staging The Crucible.
Its set by Hannah Cherrett, for example, is a minimum. Lighting and shadow play, designed by Andrew Robinson, is a key element of the storytelling. Costuming by Ben Bavington provides no anachronistic distractions, and is smart and sexy.
The cast is superlative.
Save for a few sequences – one near the beginning between Reverend Paris, played by Noah Spitzer, and his daughter, played by Katie Ryerson; one between Kira Guloien as an Elizabeth Proctor that could “chill beer” and Andrew Lawrie playing her husband John Proctor; and one between Mr. Lawrie and Kirsten Harvey as Abigail Williams – there’s usually more than a handful of characters onstage.
Laurie Campbell plays Reverend John Hale with such conviction that she had me mesmerized. And though she appears just briefly a few times, Harveen Sandhu plays Tutuba with a full-blooded range of emotions, and I kept wanting to see more of her character.
Other noteworthy performances include those by Eva Barrie, Ayinde Blake, Sean Casey, Kate Handford, Madeleine Jullian, Anthony Rella (as the crotchety character Giles Corey), Ellis Rockburn, Karen Slater, Thomas Swayne, Anna Wheeler and the gusto of Philippe Van de Maele Marton as Deputy Governor Danforth.
It’s a show I’d strongly recommend.
– It runs Tuesday through Saturday at eight, and there’s a two o’clock matinee on Saturday.
– Tickets cost $18 for general admission, and $14 for students and seniors