“John Proctor is the Villain,” a modern take on “The Crucible,” is not one to miss

Ari Kittrie, Reporter

How could it be that an interpretive dance about the song “Green Light” by Lorde is connected with Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible”?  The play “John Proctor is the Villain,” which is having its world premiere at Studio Theater, presents a unique and modern twist on “The Crucible” in light of the #MeToo movement.

“John Proctor is the Villain” centers on how an Honors English class of high school juniors in a one-stoplight town in rural Georgia becomes plagued by sexual scandal. In 2018, this class is studying “The Crucible” which essentially makes “John Proctor is the Villain” a play within a play.

Throughout the play, the different characters each face and eventually overcome their own challenges both big and small. Through these difficulties, they are able to build new friendships and even rekindle old relationships. 

A prime example of this is the journey of Shelby Holcomb, played by Juliana Sass, who struggles with her past of sexual manipulation by older men in her community. This leaves her in a constant nervous and emotionally unpredictable state, which Sass is able to capture so well. But, her challenges don’t stop her from doing what she does best: having fun and being with her friends.

The play is meant to help students learn about “The Crucible,” a book that is mandatory reading in most public schools across the country, in a thought-provoking and modern way that takes into account the new role that women play in society. 

The viewer can see the book through the eyes of the students in Mr. Smith’s English class, which leads to new and interesting perspectives on “The Crucible.” Where John Proctor is traditionally seen as the protagonist in “The Crucible,” this play flips that on its head and says that Abigail, who is usually seen as the antagonist, is the protagonist and Proctor is the villain, hence the name of the play.

The play creatively weaves together traditional works such as “The Crucible” and “The Great Gatsby” with modern-day music and references to notable singers such as Taylor Swift and Beyonce, which helps students to understand the complicated and emotionally heavy play that is “The Crucible.”

The staging is simple but highly effective. While most plays have multiple sets, Set Director Luciana Stecconi keeps to only one set throughout the two-hour play. Instead of changing scenes, they use music in between the scenes to keep the fast pace of the play moving.

The set was extremely realistic in that they used real chairs and desks from a local public school. Additionally, the room was decorated with supplies you would likely find in an English classroom including the dreaded Paragraph Hamburger chart which can be found in most Public School classrooms.

A unique feature of “John Proctor is the Villain” is its Talk Backs where the actors of the play field questions from the audience about anything from their experiences while acting in the show to how they prepared for their role.

Jordan Slattery, who plays Raelynn Nix, said in one of the Talk Backs that she prepared for her role by going back to her high school and sitting through classes to understand how high school students act and feel.

Playwright Kimberly Belflower is able to brilliantly connect the past of the Salem witch trials with the modern-day #MeToo movement that in turn creates a play that ceases to disappoint. “John Proctor is the Villain” is a definite must-see.

Try to catch the show while it’s still in Washington D.C until June 12. before it makes its way to Broadway in New York.