Humanity, witchcraft and the ability for a community to tear itself apart in the name of what they believe in are at the forefront of a new drama at Langham Court Theatre.
The Crucible, originally written by Arthur Miller in 1953, tells the story of the Salem witch trials that took place in the Massachusetts Bay Colony between 1692 and 1693.
The Tony-award-winning drama begins with several young girls and a slave playing in the woods, attempting to conjure spirits from the dead. After they’re caught, rather than suffering punishment for their actions, the girls accuse other people in Salem of practicing witchcraft, which results in mass paranoia and an atmosphere of fear in which everyone is a potential witch.
While the play has been recreated by many community theatres, director David MacPherson gives speaking roles to 18 of the 27-person cast, trying to give voice to the women in the play, many of whom are servants or wives, whom expected to stay silent.
“Here’s this unfortunate opportunity for them to take this power and strike back at some of the people who have oppressed them and kept them from a life that’s worthy and rewarding,” said MacPherson, who has been involved with 14 plays at Langham.
“When (the women) behave in this way, they’re doing it not because they’re malicious and evil, but because they’ve never had any opportunity to exercise power in their lives.”
Alex Judd plays farmer John Proctor, who is faced with a dilemma throughout the course of the play after he has an affair with his servant, Abigail.
“Proctor is trying to forgive himself but not realizing that’s what he’s doing with his wife and continuing through the pain of having broken the trust with this wife, keeps returning to Abigail in an almost habitual, addictive way,” Judd said.
At the time, Miller wrote the play as an allegory of McCarthyism, when the U.S. government ostracized people for being communists. However, Judd and MacPherson agreed the play has some stark similarities to the election of incoming U.S. president Donald Trump.
“(The play) is a statement about how ideology can lead to a society in which people become targeted and oppressed with very little evidence, with very little actual research and understanding of what’s going on and are victimized,” MacPherson said, adding there was a lot of ideology and racism wrapped up in the recent election.
“It’s a judging of people based on fear and that’s exactly what The Crucible is about. It’s the fact that the system is set up to perpetuate fear, violence, hatred and in the end, inaccurate perception of what’s going on in the world.”
The Crucible runs until Dec. 3 at Langham Court Theatre (805 Langham Crt.) For more information or tickets visit langhamtheatre.ca or call the box office at 250-384-2142.