PERFORMING ARTS: The VCP’s production of “The Crucible” takes you back to explore the fatal consequences of mass hysteria.
By Zaida Diaz, Valley Life Editor
Red lights consumed the darkness of Valley’s Horseshoe Theatre as the sound of laughter echoed from its walls. Suddenly, a group of girls entered the stage from different directions, dancing and giggling, while an older woman of color stirred a pot and chanted an unusual song. And so began The Valley Collegiate Players’ (VCP) production of Arthur Miller’s classic American drama, “The Crucible.”
Miller’s play is set during the Salem witch trials, in which citizens were accused of witchcraft and many of them were executed during 1692 and 1693 in the Province of Massachusetts Bay. “The Crucible” won a Tony Award in 1953 for “Best Play” and is considered to be a cornerstone in American theater. No pressure, VCP.
The production was entirely student-generated, consisting of 40 crew and a cast of 23. The VCP proved up to the task, from costume to lighting design. In addition, the choice of venue, which is smaller than Valley’s Main Stage, worked well because it made the acting feel much more present.
The Horseshoe Theatre is arranged so the stage is surrounded by seats; a hall is left separating half of the room, however, which leads toward an exit. The audience is in a multi-dimensional space.
Amy Lynn Perea personified the role of the manipulative and infatuated Abigail Williams to the core. Perea often broke out with mocking and chilling laughter – it provoked strong dislike.
The 17-year-old orphan lives with her uncle Reverend Samuel Parris (Mike Rivas) and used to work as a maid for the Proctor family, until she was fired for having an affair with John Proctor (Dwain Duran). It was Abigail who led the group of local girls into the forest to dance in the love-spell ritual at the top of the show.
Perhaps the biggest shoes to fill were those of John Proctor (played by none other than Daniel Day-Lewis in the 1996 film). Duran, however, surprised with his ability to portray the bold and proud farmer.
John finds himself at the center of the witch trials, as Abigail utilizes the witch-hunt frenzy to try to get rid of John’s wife, Elizabeth (Austin Boyce).
In Act II, Duran uncovered more layers to John, especially when Ezekiel Cheever (Vincent Smith) and Marshall Herrick (Francisco Yasin) came to the Proctors’ home to take Elizabeth into custody. The dismayed Duran’s raw emotion was palpable as he screamed out lines, his face often turning red, and knocked down a wooden chair.
In another of the play’s most famous scenes, Judge Danforth (Peter Nuoffer) pressures John into signing a confession that will save his life but murder his honor. Duran roared, “How may I live without my name? I have given you my soul; leave me my name!”
Miller’s play exemplifies the compelling decision people faced during the McCarthy witch-hunts – maintaining their livelihoods or an honest reputation.
The Theater Arts Department’s next production will be another classic “Romeo and Juliet,” May 7-10 at 7:30 p.m. and matinees at 2 p.m. in LAVC’s Horseshoe Theatre. For more information visit www.lavctheater.com.