By Catherine Wagley
By Channing Sargent
By L.A. Weekly critics
By Amanda Lewis
By Catherine Wagley
By Carol Cheh
By Keegan Hamilton
By Bill Raden
Proctor, meanwhile, finds himself in a bind, having had a sexual dalliance with Abigail, the woman who now accuses his wife. In order to convince the court of Abigail's tawdry motive - to replace Elizabeth in his family - he has to admit his adultery.
(Sound familiar?) And remember, this is Salem, 1692. There are brandings and lashings at the other end of such a disclosure.
But Proctor is nothing if not a man of principle. He has already come clean with his wife; now, as she languishes in a jail cell, he comes clean with the court. Soon after, Elizabeth is brought in and asked, under oath, whether she knows of any illicit affair committed by her husband. Marshall's Elizabeth sends out harrowing, desperate glances in Proctor's direction, seeking some clue as to what he's told the court, but Danforth orders him to look away. Elizabeth's dilemma, of course, is that she could send her beloved husband to the stocks with the truth, or perjure herself with a lie.
In these scenes, The Crucible dramatizes a callous intrusion of a public morality upon a private one - an intrusion that is driven home when Proctor is commanded to sign his name to a proclamation of "guilt," to be posted in the town. His sworn "confession" will not suffice. It's not enough that they have his soul. They want his name as well.
Lefave's thunderous portrayal of John Proctor is emblematic of director Ellen Geer's tone. He rubs his hands together with a force that leaves you wondering if there's any flesh left on them after the show. When not striding across the stage, or through the atmospheric woods that surround the playing area (and lend a certain cinematic grandeur to the event), he stands slightly stooped, arms dangling primatelike, bellowing in a basso profundo, a model of self-assurance. This is a character who aims not to please, but to be heard. On an outdoor stage, that's not a bad idea.
I don't know how they manage at night, but at the Saturday matinees God is the lighting designer, and He does a pretty good job. Still, while the foliage sends down some nice shadows, there's not much to be had in the way of focus. Director Geer compensates by funneling our attention through carefully rendered groupings of people on the effective, if uncredited, multitiered set. To much the same end, Geer sets the action on a scale about a size and a half larger than life - a scale to which the entire ensemble rises, resulting in a fervent and unified production, punctuated by the beautiful choral hymns sung by Pilgrims in the surrounding forest - hymns of solace and praise. Meanwhile, afternoon shade darkens the stage, people keep confessing, and no one is set free.