Arthur Miller was well served on Broadway this season with revivals of A View from the Bridge and The Crucible, both brilliantly directed by Ivo van Hove. At the Walter Kerr Theater, the spirits in The Crucible come alive, and for a moment the girls possessed by demons and led by Saoirse Ronan's Abigail look like they escaped from Mathilda, wreaking noisy havoc in unison, their inner demons like locusts in formation, moving to Philip Glass' original and eerily percussive music. As Act II opens, this choreographed chaos is a thrilling sight, and terrifying too. Coming at a time in life when sexuality awakens, these girls in knee socks and short skirts express no less than the confusing physicality of early womanhood. Abigail especially has transgressed with John Proctor in the person of Ben Whishaw who was in fact the spirit Ariel in Julie Taymor's The Tempest, and the creepy serial killer protagonist of Perfume. As Proctor, Whishaw wishes he's had nothing to do with the nanny, Abigail, but now risen up in fury, she's bent on revenge.
Of course, written in 1953, the irrational, manipulative, political Salem tribunal led by Ciaran Hinds, possessed by a chilling perverse logic, reflects upon the McCarthy era and its "witch hunt" that ruined many a life particularly in the arts community. But the play would not have its allusive force if not for its very grounding in human frailty. If you see it in this framework, and with the superb performances of Sophie Okonedo as the good wife Elizabeth, and a fine supporting cast including Tina Benko, Tavi Gevinson, and Ashlei Sharpe Chestnut, as in A View from the Bridge, forbidden sex has reared its ugly head.
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