Keegan Theatre is the perfect venue for “The Crucible”, a play in which one man’s infidelity causes a spurned young woman to manipulate the religious fervor of her community for personal gain by accusing residents of the town of witchcraft.

As the play progresses, characters charged with consorting with the devil are declared damned for the mere crime of being human. Truth and logic become weapons against those who attempt to wield them as shields to aid in their defense.

As rumors swirl and whispers of witchcraft hang in the air, an occult expert by the name of Reverend Hale (Kevin Hasser) arrives in the home of Reverend Samuel Parris (Colin Smith) to examine the Reverend Parris’ daughter, who has been displaying signs of paranormal possession.

What quickly follows is a complex, and ultimately deadly, game of shifting the blame. When Abigail Williams (Sarah Lasko) is brought under suspicion for being caught dancing in the woods before the onset of her cousin’s strange behavior, Abigail wastes no time in pointing the finger at Tituba (Shadia Hafiz) and accusing the Barbados slave of witchcraft.

Tituba, no doubt realizing that the word of a slave carries no weight against the accusations of Abigail, “confesses” and redirects the focus toward other town residents. Inspired, Abigail joins in and before long the entire town is left cowering in fear of who will be brought forth next and the final verdict of such a charge: death.

The performance was both engrossing and compelling.

From beginning to end, the actors were fully dedicated to their parts; actors who were not currently the focus of the play performed as any normal person would in their current situation: leaning against the wall, changing clothes for bed, exchanging knowing looks, etc.

Part of the play’s attraction lies in pulling the audience into the private world of the characters on stage. Although the close-natured setting of Keegan Theatre lends itself greatly to this aspect, the true source of this connection are the actors themselves.

While it was apparent that each actor is no stranger to the stage, the interaction between John (Mark A. Rhea) and Elizabeth Proctor (Karen Novack) stands out.

As the second act opens, the two actors do a superb job of conveying the unspoken sense of distrust in their home resulting from John’s affair with Abigail: accusing glances, curt sentences, and the unwillingness for them to come near or even look at one another.

Elizabeth’s unhappiness seems to stem more from the belief that her husband may love Abigail than from the actual act of her husband’s tryst. Elizabeth’s suspicions mount as her husband wavers when confronted with the possibility that Abigail is using the religious turmoil so that she may accuse Elizabeth of witchcraft and replace her as John’s wife.

The moment in which Elizabeth is inevitably arrested for witchcraft lingers long after the play is through as the actress playing Elizabeth walks out of the door with a slow purposeful stride that is at once both a walk of silent dignity and a stoic death march.

In “The Crucible” the secret sins of the town are brought to the foreground by the play’s end. Greed, envy, pride, and lust are outstanding factors that drive the story toward the final conclusion. Yet for all the false confessions given by those who sought to escape the noose, it is John Proctor’s final confession to himself that results in the play’s one and only true redemption.

» Read the review on EDGE Washington