Sunday, October 31, 2004

War puts 'Crucible' in another context



By Jackie Demaline
Enquirer staff writer

THE CRUCIBLE

What: The Crucible

When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday, 5 and 9 p.m. Saturday, 2 and 7 p.m. Sunday through Nov. 19

Where: Playhouse in the Park Marx Theatre, Eden Park

Tickets: $34-$46. (513) 421-3888, (800) 582-3208 and www.cincyplay.com

What: All My Sons

When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday through Nov. 14

Where: Cincinnati Shakespeare Festival, 719 Race St., downtown

Tickets: $16-$20. (513) 381-2273 and www.cincyshakes.com

Fifty years after opening on Broadway, Arthur Miller's The Crucible still manages to touch our hot buttons. Set during the Salem Witch Trials of 1692, at the time of its opening The Crucible was a thinly veiled allegory for the hysteria of the Communist witch hunt of the Cold War and the House Un-American Activities Committee hearings convened by Sen. Joseph McCarthy.

There's a reason it continues to be Miller's most produced work. Whenever there is social hysteria in the United States, revivals blossom.

Miller himself suggested it could happen again at the time of Vietnam.

"What will happen if Americans become more desperately frustrated, if the war goes on for years," he wrote, "if a sense of national powerlessness prepares the ground for cries of 'Betrayal! '"

It's all great fodder for discussion and the time and place to start is 5:30 p.m. today at Playhouse in the Park, when Miller biographer Martin Gottfried will offer a free lecture between matinee and evening performances of The Crucible. (Reservations unneeded.)

Gottfried is former chief drama critic for the New York Post and Saturday Review. His Arthur Miller: His Life and Work (2003) is the first comprehensive bio since Miller's autobiography Timebends was published in 1987.

Praise for controversial plays

Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park and Cincinnati Shakespeare Festival have each turned to Arthur Miller to comment on the state of America during the elections.

Artistic directors Ed Stern (Playhouse) and Brian Isaac Phillips (Shakespeare) urge you to see both productions:

Phillips on The Crucible: "I love the way it uses its period setting to discuss a topic that is (still) very much 'now.' We are living in a time of great fear and as a society we allow this fear to destroy the freedom that is our birthright."

Stern on All My Sons: "The play has both domestic and national tragedy as dramatic lines intersect. Yet it examines love and maturation even within the confines of tragedy.

"Audiences seeing both plays will get a sense of the scale, the magnitude and most certainly the genius of Arthur Miller."

Phillips: "I'm proud to be in Cincinnati right now. These two productions at this time prove that people care, audiences and performers alike. This is an important city in an important election ... (and) through art we may just change the world."




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