Starring Stuart Hughes, Patricia Fagan. Written by Arthur Miller. Directed by Albert Schultz. Young Centre for the Performing Arts, to Sept. 22.
Classical theatres like Soulpepper are sometimes criticized for being too safe and out of touch with modern audiences.But a straightforward production of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, supported by the company’s skilled ensemble, proves that a time-honoured script can still have a powerful effect even after decades of remounts and adaptation.
The harrowing story of the victims and villains of the Salem witch trials was written by Miller in the ’50s as an allegory for McCarthyism. Aside from a few clichéd thunderclaps and inelegant lighting cues, director Albert Schultz keeps it effortless with a simple but imposing wooden set by Lorenzo Savoini, letting the cast stand out in their well-matched roles. Nancy Palk and Maria Vacratsis are especially memorable in their short times on stage as, respectively, the sagacious Rebecca Nurse and the vagrant Sarah Good.
It’s impressive company for the members of the Soulpepper Academy, who, frankly, struggle to stack up against them, although Hannah Miller (Abigail Williams) and Courtney Ch’ng Lancaster (Mary Warren) will become familiar faces in time.
Though McCarthyism is well behind us, it’s hard to believe The Crucible will ever become dated, and not only because stories of artistic and political oppression still dominate the news. At its core is a heart-wrenching story told through beautiful language. When a production works, as Soulpepper’s does, it transcends time and place, as if by sorcery.