Arthur Miller’s THE CRUCIBLE is currently in repertory at Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum. A parable of mass hysteria, THE CRUCIBLE draws a parallel between the Salem witch hunts of 1692 and McCarthyism, the loud campaign against alleged communists that gripped America in the 1950s. It is a parable that feels also quite timely in our current political climate of fake news.
Theatricum Botanicum has its own history firmly rooted in the McCarthy-era Hollywood blacklist — when actor Will Geer and his wife, Herta Ware, created the theater as a haven for blacklisted actors. This production of THE CRUCIBLE is directed by Ellen Geer (Will Geer’s daughter), with family members Thad Geer, Willow Geer and Melora Marshall featured in the cast.
In THE CRUCIBLE, the small community of Salem is stirred into madness by superstition, paranoia, and malice. The story offers a frightening depiction of what can happen when fear clouds fact, and reason is replaced by blame. The play denounces the evils of mindless persecution and the terrifying power of false accusations. When New England farmer John Proctor and his wife Elizabeth dismiss their young domestic, Abigail Williams, she seeks revenge. Abigail accuses Elizabeth of witchcraft — a serious accusation in the highly-charged political and social atmosphere of 17th century Salem, Massachusetts. Many people died senselessly at that time, the product of the few who callously lied and the many who chose to believe them.
At Theatricum, the talented cast grabs your attention, takes you deep into the story, and in the process warns you about the dangers of mindless following. Christopher W. Jones, as John Proctor, is outstanding.
THE CRUCIBLE is running in repertory with Shakespeare’s CORIOLANUS and A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM, THE CHALK GARDEN by Enid Bagnold (joining the season on June 30); and a rare revival of HAITI by William DuBois, originally presented by the Negro Theatre Unit of the Federal Theatre Project in 1938 (kicking off on July 28). All of them will play in repertory through September 30.
Theatricum is a gorgeous theater terraced into the hillside of the Topanga Canyon. You can dress casually and should always bring a sweater for evening shows and cushions for bench seating. You are also welcome to arrive early and picnic before the performance.
Tickets range from $10 – $38.50; children 4 and under are free. Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum is located at 1419 North Topanga Canyon Blvd. in Topanga, midway between Malibu and the San Fernando Valley. For a complete schedule of performances and to purchase tickets, call 310-455-3723 or visit www.theatricum.com.