Saturday, January 18

“˜Crucible’ places actors’, director’s skills on trial


Classic play allows for more freedom, nuanced directing

The hangman’s noose descends upon Macgowan Hall next week
in the form of “The Crucible,” playwright Arthur
Miller’s parable of paranoia and persecution set in Puritan
Massachusetts.

Miller’s timeless tale, based on the Salem witch trials
but analogous to just about any time of uncertain sanctions, is a
perennial favorite of playhouses and schools across the
country.

Theater directing graduate student Brian Kite can’t place
when “The Crucible” was last performed at UCLA, but he
certainly thinks now is as good a time as any to perform it again.
Kite and his cast of third-year undergraduate actors will relive
Miller’s maelstrom March 10 through 13.

“The play’s an extension of our acting
training,” said junior transfer student Adam Kalesperis,
commenting on the play’s long-standing popularity with
actors, “because, more than many other plays, it is very
character-driven.” Kalesperis stars as John Proctor, the
play’s flawed hero.

Proctor severs an adulterous affair with Abigail Williams
(Antonia Raftu), a young servant who once worked in the Proctor
household. But “a promise is made in any bed,” and the
scheming, delusional Abigail resolves to see that promise
exacted.

Powerless before Abigail’s vengeance, the village of Salem
is whipped into a witch-hunting frenzy, and Proctor’s
long-suffering wife Elizabeth (Coco Kleppinger) soon stands among
the ever-increasing number of innocent townsfolk accused of
witchcraft and condemned to hang. Proctor must come clean and face
his sullied past as he attempts to save his wife and redeem his
soul.

“The Crucible,” first produced in 1953, helped
cement Miller’s place alongside Tennessee Williams and Eugene
O’Neil as America’s foremost tragedians of the modern
age. The play, perhaps more so than Tony Kushner’s
“Angels in America,” is widely considered the
quintessential American play.

“Although set in an earlier age in American history,
“˜The Crucible’ has an ageless quality and it speaks to
the times,” said Kleppinger. “(The play) directly shows
a lie being told, the truth being twisted and put on trial. “¦
It exposes the type of corruption that we’re all familiar
with and see about us everyday.”

There is little doubt that “The Crucible” is one of
the great plays of our age, or any age for that matter, and Kite
chose to direct the play for that very reason.

“I wanted simply to work with a great play,” said
Kite. “With Arthur Miller, I know the play is great, so I can
focus on everything else. I can’t say “¦
something’s not right here, or it’s too long or
it’s boring. If something’s not working, it’s my
fault.”

And if actors are to be believed, audiences are in for a hell of
a time.

“Come watch “˜The Crucible,'” said
deadpanned Paul Peglar, who plays the conscience-stricken Rev. John
Hale. “We’re well hung.”

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