Director Sean Branney grabs hold of Arthur Miller's red-scare allegory, wringing emotionally charged, angst-ridden performances from the talented cast. Young Abigail Williams (a brilliantly conniving Sarah van der Pol) and her gaggle of naive girlfriends extricate themselves from an oceanic amount of hot water by explaining their late-night woodsy romp with Barbadian servant Tituba (Hollie Hunt) as a ritual in which Tituba conjured the devil, whom they claim walked side by side with scores of local women. A witch hunt ensues and the girls point their adolescent fingers at any woman they want hanged. John Proctor (Shawn Savage), whose love affair with the conniving Abigail comes back to bite him, sets out to debunk the witchcraft accusations when his wife, Elizabeth (a steadfastly stony Karen Zumsteg), becomes Abigail's target. Branney masterfully creates chaos, pitting neighbor against neighbor, husband against wife and holy man against lawman in what amounts to a town battle of holy-war proportions. Van der Pol's Abigail is so full of vicious vengeance that she practically hisses her misguided intentions to win the affections of Savage's skillfully choked-up Proctor. Fear drives the outrageous events of the play, and Branney relentlessly shines light on the fatal foolishness of a fear-driven society. The Banshee, 3435 W. Magnolia Blvd., Burbank; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sat., 3 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m., thru May 15. (818) 846-5323, theatrebanshee.org.
Saturdays, 3 & 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m.; Fridays, 8 p.m. Starts: March 26. Continues through May 15, 2011