Review: 'The Crucible' Powerfully Reflects on Present

Arthur Miller’s The Crucible was written heavy handedly about grave times and during comparably grim times. The length and gravity of the masterpiece, could, if performed prosaically, drag the audience into the grave along with John Proctor and Ann Putnam’s seven babies. Yet despite minimal distractions in the form of sets and costumes, the law school production of The Crucible managed to engage through its three-hour length.

The play was staged in the Ames Court room in Austin Hall, an austere room with the Harvard Law School (HLS) plaque as the only decoration on the paneled back wall. The stage was set up in front of what usually serves as the judges’ seats of power. Although at first seemingly barren, it was a perfectly appropriate atmosphere for the confusion that lay in store. The occasional guitar music was soothing, although incongruous.

The first act took place in the house of the self-serving and extremely annoying Reverend Parris performed by HLS student Joseph A. Nuccio. The fact that it happened to be his house was only visible by the program. All of the other houses in which scenes were set appeared exactly the same, with one low coffee table serving as the only prop, a makeshift table or chair as necessity required. Nuccio was a fitting Reverend Parris, sufficiently pompous and dense to the point of aggravation. He announced at one point with grandiosity that naturally amused the audience, that he had graduated from Harvard University and was therefore superior to all who surrounded him. During the final scenes his denseness seemed to turn into nervous clamminess so that even he was not untouched by the madness he had helped to create.

The first act is where Abigail Williams is also introduced, the heroine, who unlike any of the women and men she accused of witchcraft, resembled a witch herself. Played by HLS student Kristy J. Greenberg, Abigail was a victim, a harlot and a vengeful witch all in one. Her performance was dazzling as her Abigail grew more brazen as her success as finger-pointer and actress of the court increased. Thrown to the ground by her supposed lover John Proctor, she only grew stronger and got her revenge, beginning with a devilish bell-like laugh.

Proctor (Christopher N. Hanley ’07) was the hero of the sad lot of Salem despite his admitted adultery with Abigail Williams (a girl less than 20 and he a farmer with three children). From the beginning his skepticism for the system bodes ill for his fate. He holds himself as the most enlightened of the village and doesn’t bother to restrain his hatred for Reverend Parris. As the whirlwind of madness enters even his house on the outskirts of the village he manages to keep his back straight and nearly unwinds the whole mad spectacle until it captures and1 breaks him. Hanley’s performance takes Proctor convincingly through all these stages with apt restraint and sufficient fervor. Hanley’s Proctor stands tall among the men of the town, a clear-eyed beacon of sanity and hard-working goodness. Hanley maintains his characters’ moral fiber even as he breaks down and signs his confession.


His wife, the long suffering and sickly Elizabeth Proctor (HLS student Zoe L. Segal-Reichlin) stands by as her husband is dragged away to the gibbet while she is saved for another six months because of her pregnancy. Segal-Reichlin’s Goodie Proctor seems sickly and sniveling as she well must be, yet her facial expression varies only slightly in degree of victimized self-pity. She is immobile when Reverend Hale (HLS student Taylor L. Dasher) pleads with her to get her husband to confess and sheds but a few tears for his impending fate.

Dasher’s Reverend Hale is the only character that switches sides during the play; he goes from signing death warrants of witches to rejecting the entire process that fed the flame. His performance is cyclic—restrained at times and overflowing with fervor other times. Yet he is earnest throughout, lending Hale the appeal of one who has come back from the dark side.

The severity of scenery was complemented by the utter absence of color in costume, representative of puritan conservativeness of course. The shirts seemed to be color coded with the judges in white, the Putnams in green (for envy perhaps), Abigail Williams in red (think red lights) and the jail officials in blue. The strength of the acting, however, requires no decoration and no color to draw the audience in.

—Crimson reviewer Julie S. Greenberg can be reached at