|Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN|
Oh my, how I'm going to miss Kevin Spacey. Not Kevin Spacey the actor, although him, too — especially after his valiant turn last month as the eponymous Clarence Darrow in David W. Rintels's drama about the pioneering lawyer — but Kevin Spacey, artistic director of London's most beautiful and historic theatre, the Old Vic. He's been in this job for ten years now and is moving on. His choices have been brave, selecting a mixture of classics, new plays and revivals, marked with exciting playwrights, fine directing, actors given the freedom to make difficult roles their own and some wild experiments, some of which worked.
Spacey's run started off slow with a poorly reviewed production of Cloaca, a translated Dutch play about, of all things, sanitation. But he soon found his stride, and Spacey's tenor gave us his Richard II, Mamet's Speed The Plow, Chekov's The Cherry Orchard, Rattigan's Cause Célèbre, Frayn's Noises Off, Baitz's Other Desert Cities and so many more memorable nights and thoughtful events that live on in the theatrical mind's eye. You can't ask more of an artistic director than that.
This month brings a moody and entirely believable version of one of my favorite plays, Arthur Miller's The Crucible, about the Salem witch trials, written at the time of, and influenced by, the determination of one demagogic senator, Joseph McCarthy, to discover and punish Communists, or imagined Communists, in American show business. In the early 1950s nearly all Miller's friends and colleagues were being bullied to "name names" to McCarthy's House Un-American Activities Committee of those who were, or might be, either Communists or "fellow travelers" and many distinguished careers were destroyed by innuendo and downright lies. It was a shameful time in American history, and frightening beyond belief to those who were targeted by the committee.
This latest production, directed by Yael Farber and starring Richard Armitage ("The Hobbit") as John Proctor, is eminently accessible both as drama and as realist theatre. Darkness swirls around this Salem, the plainness of its setting belying the extravagance of its claims. Sexual frustration, hysteria, infidelity, friendship, all play their parts as the inexorable conclusion of the condemnation of innocent men and women tug at Miller's certainty of the wrongness of their accusers and the rightness of their crusade for truth. Nine years after his death, Miller's convictions still blaze across the footlights and remind us that he, more than almost every other 20th-century playwright, still has much to teach us.
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