I saw this play at Xavier University on Halloween Night. It was a collaboration between Xavier’s Theater program and the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, with actors from each group. And it is, of course, the very famous Arthur Miller play, which I had never seen. And I had not been to Xavier’s theater for at least 5 years. Plus the fact that in 21 years of living here, no child has ever come up my driveway for Trick or Treat. So Halloween was a great time to not be home.
The set was terrific, creative, imaginative – don’t know if it was original or not, but it evoked the era, was useful as a bedroom, a cabin and a courthouse and really gave physicality to the play. An awful story, it tells of the hysteria enveloping Salem, Massachusetts during the Witch Trials over 300 hundred years ago, in a very personal and striking way. It is a great play, requiring a big cast – which is probably why the production came about. Done at the Shakespeare itself, the actors would have played several characters each.
It was expected – but still the unevenness of the acting often broke the spell. And, somehow, perhaps the play is a bit outdated. There were no real practitioners of Wicca in Salem, it would seem – whereas now, Wicca might be edgy, but it is a known religion with known practitioners and rituals. And in a recent Pew Research Center poll, well over half of all respondents acknowledged having felt or experienced ghosts. And nearly half acknowledged having no direct religious affiliation.
The painful love story of the Proctors felt very real – plus the fact that their communication only became clear and direct with the threat of death was hard.
I am glad to have seen the play, and appreciate the effort the two companies made. Maybe next time they collaborate, it will all be better.