Sunday, February 3, 2013

Abigail/1702 at Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park

A tight, strong sequel to 
The Crucible with supernatural elements

     Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa jumps off from the end of Arthur Miller’s best play The Crucible to imagine what happened to the sexy villainess Abigail Williams ten years later.  I know that Death of a Salesman gets the accolades, but it’s a kvetch fest and while Willy Loman is self-deluded, John Procter never is.  Instead, he sees exactly what’s going on in Salem, but is powerless to
stop it.  Aguirre-Sacasa’s sequel echoes the cadence of The Crucible that sounds as if it’s from another century.  However, Abigail/1702 is more tightly focused on an individual, rather than a community, and runs a fast 95 minutes.  

Set Design for Abigail/1702
     Whereas The Crucible is horrifically thrilling, Abigail/1702 hinges on redemption, but there are elements of a ghost story and of the supernatural.  In fact, the Devil appears as a character and looks and behaves a little like Benjamin Franklin.  Rather than the opportunistic strumpet of Miller’s play, Abigail is both protective of others and in league with the Devil.  Aguirre-Sacasa has an existing professional collaboration with Blake Robison, both the director of this production and the Playhouse Artistic Director.  Robison has brought in a strong design team of Wilson Chin, whose set design is both functional for a number of locales and a solid representation of a rural 17th century edifice and forest, Matthew Richards, who adds many creepy and exotic touches with the lighting without drawing attention to them, and Matthew M. Nielson, who layers both sound effects and a chilling tone to the Devil’s voice.  
Dexter Sleeps Under the Bed
While Ross Bickell and Stephanie Fieger Reminisce*

     The five actors are strong with Nicholas Carriere playing a potential romantic interest for Abigail with secrets of his own, Ross Bickell in a variety of roles from Abigail’s past, and Deanne Lorette, also in a number of roles that she individualizes physically and emotionally.  Stephanie Fieger is excellent in the lead and it’s demanding both technically and emotionally.  We were impressed.

     One big difference between Miller’s era and our own is that he could make a living as a playwright and write movies on the side while tending to Marilyn Monroe.  Aguirre-Sacasa has written many plays, but this is the first we’ve seen, though I’ve heard of a couple of the other titles.  However, his day job is writing for Glee; playwriting is his secondary occupation and that’s tragic.
*original photo by Sandy Underwood

Abigail/1702 continues through Sunday, February 17, 2013.

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