Friday, November 11, 2016

The Crucible—Battle Ground Drama Club—Battle Ground, WA

“What Webs We Weave”

This intense, topical drama is written by Arthur Miller and directed by Stephan “Cash” Henry.  It is playing at the Battle Ground High School in The Lair, 300 W. Main Street.  For more information, go to the BGHS website, or call the school.

It is said that if we cannot solve the problems of the past we are bound to repeat them.  The Salem Witch Trials were in the 1600’s, the blacklisting (that Miller was alluding to), the 1950’s.  Of course that does not even begin to scratch the surface of the prejudice/bigotry because of political and religious beliefs, sexual orientation, color of skin and cultural, et. al., continuing right up the present day (and beyond) in America, with the potential deporting of Hispanics and barring Muslims from entering our country “and the beat goes on….”

The legacy and example we have left our Youth of today is pretty pathetic for the most part.  If they behave badly, we can only look to ourselves as the source of that teaching.
Truth/Facts/Compassion seem to have little credence in the scheme of things.  “We are becoming a society of immediate misinformation.  And this can create fear, paranoia and a mob mentality on a massive scale…” (Henry, the Director).  Has the time passed when we “…are able to listen and learn and yearn towards self-knowledge and forgiveness.”  (Sundance Wilson Henry, the Designer).  Time will tell….

One of the saving graces, in my opinion, are the Arts, in this case, theatre, in which students are encouraged to explore their inner feelings in a safe environment…where they role-play to discover alternate viewpoints…where they gain confidence in themselves and learn the meaning of teamwork…where they, hopefully, will build a better tomorrow from the one we have left them.  And so, with that lead-in, we have the story of the Puritans around Salem, Mass. in the 1600’s.

In this small town, small-minded world, everybody is at each other’s throats.  It is a tinderbox, just waiting for a match.  And it is lit by a group of young girls Susanna (Jessica Spalding), Mercy (Cassidy MacAdam), Betty (Trinity Weaver), Mary Warren (Ceili O’Donnell), the reluctant participant, and their spiteful ringleader, Abby (Sammy Carroll), throwing off the yoke of the perceived repression (as teenagers will do), and dancing in the woods at night with Tituba (Jessie Akerley), a native of Barbados.  But this doesn’t sit well with the founding fathers and mothers, Mr. & Mrs. Putnam (Thomas Rismoen and Haelli Pitman), the Corey’s (Jaden Denfeld and Lahela Dickens), Willard (Mason Gardner), Sarah Good (Jamie Allen), Cheever (Noah Plummer), Francis Nurse (Ben Howard) and his saintly wife, Rebecca (Sabrina Scribner), who are having a rather hard year financially and just aching to point the finger at someone or something as the cause.

The religious factions, in the guise of Rev. Parris (Brandon Henifin), a materialistic, fire-and-brimstone preacher and Rev. Hale (Jack Harvison), a man with a conscience, quickly come to the conclusion that it is the devil that is the cause of all their ills, manifest through some human agents, and so a witch hunt ensues.  And it does not go well when it is discovered that the independent-minded, combative, Proctor (Skyler Denfeld) and his estranged wife, Elizabeth (Lauren Southwick), seem to be “somewhat-mentioned” as possible cohorts of Lucifer.  Further complications arise when it is also discovered that one of the girls, Abby, has had carnal relations with Proctor.

Things go from bad to worse when the highly-reputed, Judge Danforth (Justin Kunkel), a by-the-book fellow and his cohort, Judge Hathorne (Tanner Opdahl), preside at the trial.  Needless to say, things do to not turn out well for a number of people…but telling any more would spoil the ending.  This is only to give you an outline of the people and circumstances, as much of the drama is in the actual exchanges of dialogue.  And, keep in mind, this is a true story, as were the McCarthy hearings.  A lesson for the Ages…if anyone is listening?!

This is a powerful story Henry has brought to the boards and, with his guidance, it is a perfect venue for young people to explore.  For the most part his cast is up for the challenge, although there was an occasional dead spot where, I assume, lines were missed, but I attribute that to opening night jitters.  To add to the power of the show, his wife, Sundance, has done some rather remarkable things with the costuming, adding to the authenticity of the piece.

Considering the difficulty of the roles and situations, the cast gave a rather powerful presentation of a controversial subject.  I was especially impressed by Denfeld as Proctor.  He charged into the role like a bull and by the end he was quite moving as he realized his plight.  Equally good, in a somewhat more subdued role, was Southwick as his wife.  She was convincing as a woman scorned but also trying to maintain a loving relationship.  Both actors were very articulate and effective.  Carroll and O’Donnell were also good in major roles.  At times, clear enunciation was needed, as some seemed to be rushing lines, but the emotions of the moments were firmly intact.

One final note: This group has been accepted at the prestigious Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland in August, 2017.  They are one of 40, out of about 3,000 applicants from the U.S. and Canada, that were accepted—an important honor (and well deserved, in my opinion).  They need help to transport the almost twenty people, costing over $100,000 to do so, so let’s give them a hand.  Contact the school or Henry at henry.stephan@battlegroundps.org for donations and/or more info.

I recommend this play.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.