DORSET - I attended the opening night of The Dorset Players presentation of The Crucible by Arthur Miller at the Dorset Playhouse. As the performance began I was transported back in time to Salem, Mass., 1692, and taken on a journey of intrigue, base desire, greed, power struggles, lies, and hypocrisy. All indications of the human condition that are as relevant today as they were in 1953, when Miller wrote this play during the McCarthy era.

For those of you who did not read "The Crucible" in English class, or did not see the widely popular 1996 movie version with Wynona Ryder and Daniel Day Lewis, the Puritan settlement of Salem erupts with fear when four girls are caught dancing in the forest and are accused of witchcraft. Suddenly, lines are drawn. Old resentments and jealousies create a neighbor against neighbor scenario illustrating the lust for monetary, political, and spiritual power. Each character has something to hide when put under the investigative microscope.

The play opens with Reverend Parris (Bill Cruikshank) at his daughter Betty's (Emily Bleakie) bedside, praying for her to recover from her collapse in the woods. He has discovered her with a group of girls, Mercy Lewis (Kya Davis), Susanna Wolcott (Cydney Jeffrey), Mary Warren (Sarah Solari) and the black slave Tituba (Mia Nassivera) dancing in the forest the night before. Soon, talk of witchcraft engulfs Salem. Abigail Williams (Caroline Hogan) is questioned by her uncle, Reverend Parris, and states she and the other girls were doing nothing more than dancing.


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It was innocent fun, she says. But she is not as innocent as she declares. When John Proctor (Jim Young), arrives to pick up his servant Mary Warren from Parris's house, his private conversation with Abigail reveals that their relationship is far more complicated than it first appears. The year before when Abigail was employed by the Proctors she and John had an affair while his wife Elizabeth Proctor (Elisabeth Hazelton) was ill. Abigail was sent away still yearning for him.

Reverend Hale, (Christopher Restino), an expert on witchcraft, arrives to examine and investigate. Through his investigation the secrets of the people of Salem are laid bare. What follows is the eventual destruction of reputations and personal morals as mob hysteria takes over. Ultimately, the silver lining of this story is one of conviction and redemption. Conviction in rediscovering one's own morals, and the personal redemption one feels when his conscience is clear.

O'Toole's direction is crisp and clear. He has pulled together a wonderful company to tell and inhabit Miller's play. Mention must be made of Jim Young (John Proctor) and Elisabeth Hazelton (Elizabeth Proctor) as they navigate the difficulties couples may go through after an affair has invaded their marriage. Caroline Hogan (Abigail Williams) thoroughly embodies the manipulative and vindictive aspects of her character, while Christopher Restino (Reverend Hale) gives a thoughtful performance as the moral voice of the play. Sarah Solari (Mary Warren) is beautifully nuanced as the young girl who tries to tell the truth, but is ultimately cowed into lying, and Lawrence Zupan (Deputy Gov. Danforth) is committed in his zealous approach to rooting out witchcraft.

The lighting design by Peter Chase and set design by Drew Hill worked wonderfully in concert to support O'Toole's vision. The simplicity of the interior sets of the Parris and Proctor homes were in direct contrast to the opulence of the interior courtroom.

This set's high oak pulpit, large window treatments and usage of window gobo's to add texture created the power and intimidation the accused must have felt at the Salem Witch trials. The forest scene with its subtle lighting, leaf effect and usage of color added to the sensuality and sexual tension between Proctor and Abigail.

Costumes by Mary McVey and Elizabeth Winters enhanced the show, especially their use of color, placing the antagonist Abigail in red, the young girls in color and John Proctor the protagonist in earth tones. These important characters become separate from other puritanical figures in black and foreshadow their ultimate control over the outcome of their lives.

Support this talented cast before it closes and experience in Kevin O'Tooles words, "Miller's searing drama which illustrates for today's audiences the consequences of doing nothing when confronted by vicious rumor. In these days of twitter, Facebook and the like, it is so easy to let falsehoods pass. The Crucible demands that we pay heed."

Performances are March 15 and 16 at 7:30 p.m. and March 17 at 2 p.m. For tickets, call the box office at 802-867-5777. For more information about "The Crucible," or becoming a member of The Dorset Players, visit the Players' website: www.dorsetplayers.org.