Religious fundamentalism is alive and well in the United States, making Arthur Miller's heavy-handed take on theocracy and the perils of unbridled mass hysteria worth heeding once again. Bill Voorhees directs this effective production of Miller's cautionary classic, set in 17th-century Salem, Mass., and launched when a group of young girls begins accusing innocent citizens of consorting with the devil. Caught up in the frenzy are liberal-minded John Proctor (Voorhees) and his wife, Elizabeth (Lauren Dobbins Webb), an honorable woman targeted for death (the punishment for recalcitrant witches) by John's jealous former paramour, Abigail (Jessica Neufeld). A generally strong cast coalesces to portray a contentious community, torn apart by covetous quarrels over property as well as superstition and fear. Anthony Blackman does fine work as the investigative pastor who comes to recognize the witch hunts for the evil crusades they are. Lorianne Hill epitomizes a bitter bigot relishing the pain of the persecuted as a balm for her own. Most riveting is David Ross Paterson, bone-chilling as the arrogant tribunal magistrate besotted with power. Voorhees' staging is solid, but his flawed hero is the ensemble's weakest link. Joel Daavid's set design and Matt Richter's lighting and sound aptly underscore the direful events. Elephant Stages, Lillian Theatre, 6322 Santa Monica Blvd., Hlywd.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; through July 14. (323) 960-4443, plays411.com. (Deborah Klugman)
Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Starts: June 15. Continues through July 14, 2012
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