Tarrant Actors Regional Theatre
Director – Allen Walker
Set Design – Alex Krus, Bryan S. Douglas
Lighting Design – Bryan S. Douglas, Alex Krus
Costume Design – Stefanie Glenn
Sound Design – Allen Walker
Property Design – Amanda Merrill, Allen Walker, Nicole Bowen
Stage Manager – Nicole Bowen
Betty Parris – Lauren Hardgrave
Reverend Samuel Parris – Doug Parker
Tituba – La’Netia D. Taylor
Abigail Williams – Jule Nelson Duac
Susannah Walcott – Taylor Staniforth
Mrs. Ann Putnam – Laura Jones
Thomas Putnam – David Ellis
Mercy Lewis – Ashley Bownds
Mary Warren – Laura Lester
John Proctor – Brad Stephens
Rebecca Nurse – Sarah Dolbier
Giles Corey – Delmar H. Dolbier
Reverend John Hale – Eric Dobbins
Elizabeth Proctor – Karen Matheny
Francis Nurse – Harry Liston
Ezekiel Cheever – Christopher D’Auria
John Willard – Tyler Cochran
Judge Hathorne – Alex Wade
Deputy-Governor Danforth – Robert Banks
Sarah Good – Vicki Macchietto
Photo by Walter Betts
Reviewed Performance 9/13/2014
Reviewed by Elaine Plybon, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
Arthur Miller penned The Crucible in 1953, in the midst of the McCarthy Era. Its setting, during the witch trials in 1600s Salem, Massachusetts, was an intentional comparison to the accusations of communism being thrown at that time in modern history. First produced on Broadway in 1953, the play won the Tony Award for Best Play.
The play is a deftly written piece that sets itself apart as a classic in both structure and style. Its dialogue and setting is reminiscent of Shakespearean strength. Its topic is one that is familiar to most. The Salem Witch Trials have earned a spot in American history, easily remembered for its twenty executions as a result of mass hysteria.
Tarrant Actors Regional Theatre (TART) opens its second season with a worthy production of the thought-provoking play. Choosing this play, used by many high schools as required reading in English classes, to life, TART brings its audience events that occurred nearly 400 years ago in a way that demonstrates the similarities to our own world today, as well as that of the McCarthy Era.
The play is performed in a black box theatre. The set design by Alex Krus and Bryan S. Douglas is nicely constructed, with moving panels arranged to create scenes such as a bedroom, dining room, living room with fireplace, a courtroom, and a sinister-looking wall.
Lighting in the theater is dark, with blue illumination along the back wall, and an occasional spot for the actors. The design, also by Douglas and Krus, added an element of the sinister and dark which was definitely called for by the theme. However, there were times when lighting was so dim it was difficult to see the actors’ faces, making it difficult to get the full range of their expertise.
The costume design by Stefanie Glenn is 1600 drab, pieces that include long brown or black dresses for the women with large white collars and bonnets. A few of the women did not have collars, seeming out of place for the time, but for the most part, everyone dressed the part. The men of status wore nicely tailored, long coats with vests and boots or shoes, finishing off long stockings. John Proctor, a farmer, wore a simpler design with white shirt, knickers and off-period work boots.
Director Allen Walker brings together a cast with several strong principals and an adequate supporting cast. The small space presents difficulty with blocking; often the actors are lined up in a row in front of the rear set piece, talking side by side because there just isn’t room for depth.
The action begins with Reverend Samuel Parris at the bedside of his ailing daughter, Betty. Doug Parker does a convincing job portraying the reverend with shaky, anxiety-laden looks and nervous speech. The reverend comes across more concerned with what the townspeople will be saying about his daughter than for her health. Parker stumbled over lines but they were easily veiled in the frantic nature of his character.
Jule Nelson Duac is well-cast as a conniving, manipulative Abigail Williams. Duac shows a range of emotions as she anxiously defends herself, lies to the minister and townspeople, or pleads with her lover, John Proctor. The language of Duac’s eyes is easy to translate into the deep meaning she conveys in the role. A niece of Reverend Parris, Abigail Williams is an instigator of mayhem in Salem and Duac gives a believable performance.
La’Netia Taylor plays Tituba, the servant from Barbados, who is accused of conjuring up the devil in the forest with fire, along with young girls who are the victims of a mysterious illness, including the Reverend’s daughter. Taylor’s performance is strong and convincing, her island accent believable. Her facial expressions exactly reflect the content of her dialogue.
Ann and Thomas Putnam, a couple whose daughter is also afflicted with the illness, are played by Laura Jones and David Ellis. Jones’ stern, yet frightened look through most of the play is spot on for a mother who is both disapproving of the goings-on and scared at the thought of losing her only child. Ellis is very convincing with his gruff demeanor and commanding voice.
Laura Lester’s performance as Nancy Warren is nicely well-rounded. Frantic facial expressions and vocal inflections reveal a woman in turmoil between righting a wrong or continuing a lie. Lester’s portrayal gives credence to an actual hypothesis that food poisoning may have caused a dementia that fueled the accusations in Salem. I enjoyed this depth of her characterization.
Brad Stephens seems slightly ill-cast in the role of John Proctor. Although he delivered his lines on cue, they fell somewhat flat and his facial expressions weren’t quite as convincing, a departure from other roles I’ve seen Stephens in previously.
Delmar Dolbier as Giles Corey is consistently enjoyable. His timing and facial expressions are always spot on.
Robert Banks delivers the strongest performance as Deputy Governor Danforth. From the moment he breezes onstage, Banks’ experience is evident. A haughty demeanor and accent generates the attitude of superiority defining his character. Whether raising his eyebrows in amusement at the simpleminded country folk or furrowing them in disdain, Banks’ performance is impeccable.
TART’s production of The Crucible is solid and a thought-provoking experience. The script and setting for the play are both compelling and engaging. The ensemble works well together and the technical aspects are complimentary. As a whole, it is well worth seeing during its short run.
Tarrant Actors Regional Theatre
at Fort Worth Community Arts Center
1300 Gendy Street
Fort Worth, TX 76107
Plays through September 28th
Friday-Saturday at 8:00 pm, and Saturday-Sunday at 2:00 pm
Tickets are $15.00, $12.00 for students/seniors/military (with ID), and $10.00 for children (12 and younger). Matinee tickets are $12.00, $10.00 for students/seniors/military, and $8.00 for children.
For information and to purchase tickets, visit http://thetart.org or call the box office at 682-231-0082.