In the days of HUAC and Senator Joseph McCarthy, when it was dangerous for any left-leaning writer to criticize government actions, playwright Arthur Miller approached the subject indirectly, writing about the Salem Witch Trials of 1692 as a metaphor for McCarthys reckless accusations. But as this illuminating production makes clear, the play remains eloquent and relevant, and director Marianne Savell gives it a sharp new focus. In addition to examining the plight of John and Elizabeth Proctor (Bruce Ladd and Nan McNamara), both accused of witchcraft, she highlights two of the accusers: The paranoid, egocentric, hysterical Reverend Parris (Daniel J. Roberts) is ultimately destroyed by the madness he has unleashed, while decent man of conscience Reverend Hale (Gary Clemmer) believes the charges of witchcraft until its too late to halt the madness. The witch-hunt, launched by a toxic brew of superstition, fear, lies, self-righteousness and individual malice, becomes an inexorable force, grinding up accusers and accused. Ladd and McNamara deftly capture the flawed but powerful integrity of John and Elizabeth, while Roberts and Clemmer subtly delineate the growing despair of the two clergymen. They are given strong support by a huge and able cast. Actors Co-op, 1760 N. Gower St., Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun., 2:30 p.m., additional matinee Sat., May 16, 2:30 p.m., through June 7. (323) 462-8460.
Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2:30 p.m.; Saturdays, 2:30 p.m. Starts: May 1. Continues through May 16, 2009