Helping You Get the Most Out of Your Misery






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Friday, February 11, 2005



The Crucible was the worst play I've ever seen.

Let me be more specific: A production of The Crucible was the worst play I've ever seen. A very good friend of ours was going to a school in Seattle and she invited us to come see this production, which was produced under circumstances with which one could sympathize, but that didn't excuse the dreadfulness of the piece itself. Okay, I'm being obtuse here.

This school that my friend attended had a drama department headed by a woman about whom I've actually heard wonderful things. I've got another friend who studied under her and who is a wonderful actor. Also, there were some very fine actors in this production. But this drama department staged only one or two shows per year. And, I believe, the woman who ran it felt that she owed it to every actor in the department to give them a chance to act. So she did.

She took The Crucible and put about four times as many actors in it as are called for. This meant that, in the chaotic mob scenes, the stage was packed. Like a sardine can. When the accusatory girls came onstage, it looked like a community theater production of Annie, there were that many of 'em. These things, though, are not bad. Too many directors are forced to try to suggest a crowd with four actors and the props master in a wig. This lady created verisimilitude with an actual crowd. No, the amount of actors onstage was not, in and of itself, the problem.

The problem was that she needed to give them all speaking roles and, while it's a large-cast show, there weren't enough parts to go 'round. So she improvised. She got the idea of casting three or four people in each speaking part. This meant that, when you'd gotten used to one John Proctor, he got yanked and you had to adjust to a new guy. It was kinda like on a daytime soap, when the announcer comes on and tells you that someone else is going to be playing Luke and Laura today. But four times in two and a half hours.

Even that might not have been so bad, but she came up with one of the most annoying devices ever for making the switch. When it came time to swap out one Reverend Paris for another, she'd have the guy say his line, then the line would be repeated by a different voice over the speakers. The guy would say his next line...and it would be repeated by that different voice again. Next, a guy would spin in from offstage--and I mean literally spinning--stand next to the guy who'd been playing the part and they'd say a line together. Then the first guy would spin off and the new guy would say a line, which would be repeated by the previous guy's voice over the speakers. This happened at least three times for every major speaking part. So we spent an extra half-hour or so more than we would have in an ordinary production, just watching these actors spinning on and off stage. I suppose the director was maybe thinking this was a way to ease an audience in and out of these changes. Mostly it just made me dizzy and pissed.

Also, as with any theater department, there are good actors and there are actors who just kind of suck. Normally, the ones who suck don't get cast in shows. They do their scenes in the classroom where the general public is not exposed to them. Not so here. We were treated to a young gal playing Reverend Paris for ten minutes who seemed to base her performance on Mr. Burns from The Simpsons. We got to sit through a white girl playing Tituba, the Jamaican slave. That was fun. She used the worst accent this side of Keanu Reeves in Dracula to utter lines like, "T'ink of de t'ings you love!" I'm happy to say that our friend was not among the clunkers. She actually acquitted herself quite nicely at one point as Abigail. Then she had to twirl offstage to be replaced by someone not as good.

Truly one of the most painful evenings I've spent in a theater. Matched only by the year the same department did a production of A Chorus Line with a cast that could neither sing nor dance, which leant a certain irony to the number in which one fellow sang "I can do that! I can do that!" while children from a local tap school were brought in to do the actual dancing.

I realize that it's actually a wonderful thing that all of these actors got to work with a woman who busted her ass to give them a chance to shine. I realize that theater is for everybody and you shouldn't have to be Al Pacino to get a chance to perform. I realize that this lady was doing what she could with limited resources. But today, with Arthur Miller gone, I'm just thinking that it would be nice not to have my memory of him forever linked with twirling.

this is fucking hilarious. SCCC?
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