Richard and I saw a revival of *The Crucible* on Broadway on 4/29. The cast was a draw (Saoirse Ronan and Ben Winshaw in their Broadway debuts, also Ciaran Hinds, Sophie Okonedo, Tavi Gevinson, and Brenda Wehle), but the bigger draw for me was director Ivo van Hove. This was the third show we've seen directed by him in under a year: his *Antigone* at BAM was chilly but engrossing, and his *A View from the Bridge* on Broadway was incredibly powerful. This show wasn't as strong as I wanted it to be, but it's growing on me the more I think about it, which seems like a good sign. I think part of the problem is that *The Crucible* isn't as taut a piece of writing as *A View from the Bridge*, but my friend Karen made another good point: *Crucible* is a more stagy piece of writing, which van Hove directed in a more naturalistic way - - *Bridge* is more naturalistic in the writing, and he staged it in a more stagy way. I respond more to a stagy staging.
Don't get me wrong, it was still very imaginative and full of fascinating images. He set the show in a contemporary parochial school, which made it feel more immediate than if it had been set in 1600s Salem. Van Hove staged two or three tableaux - - the show started with six girls sitting at desks, their backs to the audience, singing a creepy hymn. We saw that for less than a minute, and the curtain went back down (and was raised again for the first scene). Another tableau with a girl floating in the air, and the second act started with a wolf walking onstage, which got gasps from the audience. It walked off and the actors came on from the other side.
A couple of things annoyed me greatly. First, the courtroom scene ended with papers and debris blowing onto the stage and a lighting fixture falling to the floor. So of course the final scene was played with all this crap everywhere. I'm tired of seeing crap on the floor, this has become a 21st century theatrical cliche - - it does not enhance the drama. And van Hove did the same thing in this show as drove me crazy in *Bridge*: he uses short clips of music and plays then over and over. Again, this does not enhance the drama, it only drives me out of my mind. At least this time the clip itself was longer: a one-minute clip of a hymn vs. a ten-second clip from the Faure *Requiem.*
The performances were all very strong. I'll single out the two most impressive performances. I love Ronan from the movies and was intrigued to see her onstage - - her Abigail was edgy and coursing with teenage energy and power. She's the motor of the plot, and Ronan totally delivered.
Bravo to van Hove for casting Ben Winshaw as John Proctor. He's not what I picture as the Proctor type: he was played by Daniel Day Lewis in the 1996 movie and by Liam Neeson on Broadway in 2002. Both are grand actors with big presence. Winshaw is best known as Q in the new James Bond movies. He's a little wisp of an Englishman. So his John Proctor was an ordinary man cornered by circumstances and driven to a heroic act, rather than a heroic man acting heroically.