Theatre Information

Catholic University of America The Crucible

By • Apr 25th, 2012 • Category: Reviews, Washington DC

Catholic University Drama’s production of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible is a visually intriguing show that highlights one of the seminal plays of this American playwright. Arthur Miller wrote The Crucible in response to McCarthyism, which he viewed as a modern-era witch hunt. Miller uses the historical background of the Salem witch trials to explore how accusations begin to fly once the rumors of witchcraft start.

The large cast generally works well together. With such a large cast, it is difficult to have everyone at the same pace, but this more or less happens in this production. The standouts are Reverend Hale, played by Phil Dickerson, and Mary Warren, played by Samantha Smedley. Though both play supporting characters, Dickerson and Smedley have clear trajectories and emotional journeys for their characters.

Bill Largess directs a production with a tall conceptual order. It is aesthetically stunning. Largess utilizes the technical elements well to highlight the action, though certain scenes felt flat, and even anticlimactic. In particular, the jail cell scene between John and Elizabeth Proctor was calculated with restraint and felt too pause-heavy. What did work in Largess’s production is his clever highlighting of a secondary theme in Miller’s play: The role of women in a Puritan society. Largess’s question (and perhaps, affirmative answer) might be to ask if this role of the feminine is still present in today’s patriarchy.

The set (designed by Tony Cisek) is, in a word, impressive. An ever-rotating collection of beams hovers over a roughly hewn floor of wooden boards. As the scenes change, the ladder-shaped “roof” that is suspended overhead moves silently to a new position. Furniture is simple, and it is used to reconfigure the space into a bedroom, a main room, a court room, and a jail. The roof served as a sort of giant gobo and posed a particular challenge to lighting designer Thomas Donahue, who found the solution in using the striped shadows cast as a deliberate addition within the scenes. This worked to his advantage in creating another layer within this world. The last image of the show silhouettes the bodies of those accused and hung in Salem in a strikingly somber final blow. The sound design (Gregg Martin) was well-crafted, though some more tender moments were highlighted in a way that felt overly sentimental, at times. Sally Montgomery’s costume design features muted tones of primary colors for the ensemble. Montgomery does a fine job of differentiating class, though some of the hat choices I found to be a little distracting.

Catholic University Drama’s production of The Crucible is a solid collegiate production that is definitely worth seeing. The Crucible is, in and of itself, a compelling play, and Catholic’s production provides ample support from the technical elements in particular. The story in this production proves that it is definitely one that still needs telling.

Photo Gallery

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Photos by Bill Largess


  • Ann Putnam: Rachel Burkhardt
  • Thomas Putnam: Paul Carrazzone
  • Elizabeth Proctor: Mary Elise Cecere
  • Hopkins: Christopher Daileader
  • Abigail: Lauren Davis
  • Reverend Hale: Phil Dickerson
  • Judge Danforth: Christopher Dwyer
  • Giles Corey: Dan Essig
  • John Proctor: Patrick Flannery
  • Tituba: Malika Horton
  • Judge Hathorne: Chris Hudson
  • Rebecca Nurse: Mimsi Janis
  • Mercy Lewis: Anna Lathrop
  • Betty Parris: Stephanie McGill
  • Willard: Brandon McMahon
  • Cheever: Andrew Majors
  • Susanna Wallcott: Nina Marti
  • Francis Nurse: Anthony Papastrat
  • Martha Corey: Olivia Pavlick
  • Sarah Good: Lauren Schene
  • Reverend Parris: Robert Schumacher
  • Mary Warren: Samantha Smedley
  • Ensemble: Chris Somes
  • Ensemble: Joe Weber

Creative Team

  • Director: Bill Largess
  • Set Design: Tony Cisek
  • Lighting Design: Thomas Donahue
  • Sound Design: Gregg Martin
  • Costume Design: Sally Montgomery
  • Assistant Director: Julia O’Connor
  • Dramaturg: Heather-Liz Copps
  • Executive Producer: Gail S. Beach
  • Producer: Thomas Donahue
  • Stage Manager: Michele Vicino
  • Assistant Stage Manager: Ciaran Farley
  • Light Board Operator: Claire Dunlay
  • Sound Board Operator: Caleb Caudill
  • Costumes/Deck: Rachel Barclay, Kat White, Kim Giroux
  • Costumes: Dan Essig
  • Deck: Theo Dewez, Joe Weber
  • Props/Deck: Chris Daileader

Disclaimer: Catholic University Drama provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review.

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