Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The Crucible at the Sycamore Rouge

Reviewed by Linda Goodman

Yesterday afternoon I made a trip to Old Town Petersburg to catch a matinee performance of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible at the Sycamore Rouge.

Anyone who is familiar with The Crucible knows that it does not have a happy ending. Set during the Salem, Massachusetts witch trials in 1692, this drama portrays innocent people who suffer the consequences after wild tales from children create an atmosphere of mass hysteria. Writing during the mad reign of McCarthyism, Miller structured this play to warn that history does, indeed, repeat itself, far more often than lessons are learned. Parallels can be found in every era.

The set at the Sycamore was plain and suitably stern, creating an atmosphere that was at once sinister and foreboding. Of course, a good cast and crew cannot go wrong with an Arthur Miller script. I am happy to report that this cast and crew did its job well.

While the entire cast was good, there were a few who deserve special mention:

Stephen Ryan, as the Reverend John Hale, skillfully crafted a complex man whose good intentions were turned against him. In his zeal to do the Lord’s work, he supped with the devil, realizing too late that the horror he thought to control was in fact controlling him and everyone around him.

Brittany Simmons, as Abigail Williams, a scorned young woman whose fury would result in the deaths of nineteen innocent men and woman, was a tight knot of self-righteous indignation, pointing her deadly finger at any who dared try to thwart her diabolical scheme to possess the man who spurned her.

Mike Sullivan, as Giles Corey, gave a heartbreaking turn as a man who thought to teach his book-loving wife a lesson, all the while unwittingly signing her death warrant.

Beth Von Kelsch, as Elizabeth Proctor, triumphed as the wronged wife who watches in horror as her husband’s mistakes bring about the ruin of her family. Ultimately, she nobly takes the blame upon herself. “It were a cold house I kept,” she confesses. Ms. Von Kelsch portrayed Elizabeth with just the right mix of strength and vulnerability.

Jefferey Cole, as John Proctor, one of the few sane minds amidst the hysteria, portrays the voice of reason that will not be heard, even though it be shouting. His ultimate sacrifice is his legacy to his children. As an actor, Cole became the character with such ease it was hard to separate the two.

The Sycamore Rouge is a beautifully restored theater and bar. On Sunday, it served drinks and desserts. I recommend the key lime pie.

The Crucible will be showing on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays through May 15. Friday and Saturday shows start at 8:00 p.m. Sunday shows start at 4:00 p.m. Tickets range from $18.00 to $22.00. For reservations, call 804-957-5707 or visit www.sycamorerouge.org.


  1. Ms. Goodman,

    This is Stephen Ryan (Rev. Hale) from the cast of THE CRUCIBLE. Thank you so very, very much for this lovely commentary on your experience at Sycamore Rouge and at our show.

    We shared your sentiments amidst the entire cast at a mid-run rehearsal tonight, and all were most grateful and appreciative of your kind words.

    This production has been a very special moment in our collective acting careers, and we are endlessly thankful for the attendance and supportive feedback of our patrons. Your response was most eloquent, thoughtful, and moving to us all.

    Again, many sincere, heartfelt thanks from the cast, crew, and production team of THE CRUCIBLE.

    Best wishes to you, madam...from all of us involved with THE CRUCIBLE and Sycamore Rouge.

    Stephen Ryan

  2. THE CRUCIBLE is a powerful play that works on so many levels. During the 60s, I played Elizabeth Proctor in a college production and became fascinated with the Salem Witch Trials.

  3. Becky, I bet you were a wonderful Elizabeth Proctor.