This weekend I attended two performances of "The Crucible," Arthur Miller's play set in 1692 about the Salem witch hunts and trials. It was the senior drama at my son's high school and he played the part of one of the judges. The entire cast did a phenomenal job and the standing ovation they received at the end was earned and not just a display of familial affection from adoring parents and grandparents.
The late Arthur Miller (who died this past February) also deserves a posthumous standing ovation for his writing of this play. I know he wrote it in the 1950's as a response to the national hysteria about commmunists in our midst, but this was a fact I completely forgot in the watching of it. The themes the play explored and the questions it raised were universal and not limited to that slice of history. Every five minutes the audience could have used a "pause" just to absorb the weight of what was happening on the stage.
- What is integrity?
- What is goodness?
- Who can judge?
- On what basis can something be judged?
- How can lies and confusion be navigated?
- How is truth determined?
- What does it cost to forgive?
- What does it cost to withhold forgiveness?
- When is mercy the most just course of action?
- What events are put into play when self-preservation becomes one's primary concern?
- How and when does a person decide to take a stand for what is right?
- How does evil become socially sanctioned?
- When is truth more valuable than life?
These are just some of the questions triggered by the play that a member of the audience could roll around in his or her mind for quite some time.
For more information on "The Crucible," I refer you to a piece printed in the October 21, 1996 issue of The New Yorker: "Why I Wrote the Crucible" by Arthur Miller. If you can, attend a live production of it or rent a copy of the movie made in 1996 and starring Daniel Day-Lewis, Joan Allen, and Winona Ryder. If you rent the movie, take advantage of your DVD or VCR's "pause" button to think and absorb at frequent intervals.