Adaptation: The Crucible

Arthur Miller’s The Crucible is currently in previews on Broadway at the Walter Kerr Theater and opens March 31 – next Thursday! I was lucky enough to snag discounted tickets last week and eagerly met a friend there Saturday night.

If you haven’t read this play before, here’s a quick summary: it’s 1692 Salem, and you know what that means – the Salem Witch Trials. A group of teen girls led by Abigail Williams claim to have been enchanted by Tituba, Abigail’s uncle’s slave from Barbados. Quickly the girls gain power in the town as they claim to be able to see spirits and witchcraft. They begin naming witches and things quickly spiral out of control. Written in 1953, this is often seen as an allegory warning against McCarthyism.

Did you read the play or watch it first? I haven’t read The Crucible since high school American literature class about a decade ago, but I remembered the plot and a few of the most pivotal scenes.

How were the play and Broadway adaptation the same? While I am always hesitant to see movie or play adaptations of a favorite book, I think a play is a little different, because although the costumes, casting, & set design are open to interpretation, the script never changes. Your favorite lines will (usually) never be cut, and your favorite characters will never unexpectedly die.

How were the play and Broadway adaptation different?  This Broadway adaptation completely blew me away. There’s a star studded and phenomenal cast: Saoirse Ronan as Abigail Williams, Ben Whishaw as John Proctor, and Tavi Gevinson as Mary Warren. The stage was pretty sparse, and it’s set up like an old fashioned class room with a big chalkboard along the back of the stage. There are moments of pure magic – a little Betty Parris flying in the house, Mary Warren writing “I cannot, I cannot” across the entire chalkboard – that are both open for interpretation and add a bit of whimsy to the play. The other thing that I found completely refreshing was the colorblind casting of the play. Diversity is such an important and sensitive topic these days, so I was pleasantly surprised to see a pretty diverse cast. I expected an all-white cast but for Tituba, the Barbadian slave (like the otherwise great 1996 movie adaptation). Instead, there was an African American judge, neighbor, wife, etc.

I also wanted to tell you that the orchestra was composed by Philip Glass, and it is absolutely haunting and the perfect backdrop for such a dark play. If this soundtrack becomes available online somewhere soon, I will definitely be listening to it on repeat while I am working.

Parting Thoughts:  If you’re lucky enough to live in New York City or if you’ll be visiting in the near future, I would highly recommend this play. I have loaded the play onto my Kindle and plan on revisiting it soon.


Additional Reading:


Other Posts in the Adaptation Series:

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