December 29, 2004

The Crucible
Arthur Miller

The Play’s the Thing – I could say a lot about this play. I could observe that three centuries have now passed since the Salem witch hunts – but the American people remain dangerously enthralled by superstitions and theocracy. I could dissect Miller’s smart use of interspersed narrative to deepen a reader’s understanding, a director’s insight and an actor’s portrayal. I could even recount my recent visit, over Thanksgiving weekend, to the Rebecca Nurse homestead in Danvers, Massachusetts – describing how I felt the tangible chill of fear and fanaticism that you often feel emanating from the dark earth of awful tragedy. But instead I find myself fascinated by a line scribbled by hand, in blue ink with a co-ed’s rounded lettering, on the inside back cover of this used Penguin Plays edition: “Danny wanted to wear leather pants tonight but I talked him into wearing jeans.” To me, the line is a parallel play – a 14-word drama about desire, puritan ethics, young girls and men, vanity, societal pressure to conform, and the small tragedies of everyday life.


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