Monday, February 14, 2011

Marilyn Monroe in The Crucible



A few weeks ago, my wife and I went to see Arthur Miller’s The Crucible at Providence’s Trinity Repertory Company. The man playing Reverend Samuel Parris seemed detached from the character’s hell-raising vanity. It was most noticeable in his articulation and tone. He delivered lines with a certain estrangement of voice. I don’t necessarily blame the actor. Other than God himself, who in their right mind would want to play such an asshole? Reverend Parris is a diehard megalomaniac with the worst kind of ego, one that achieves great heights by belittling others morally and economically. To use an oft spoken word in the play (with heaps of thematic resonance), his egotism is all pretense. Reverend Parris hasn’t done anything spectacular to warrant such a high and mighty self-opinion. Win a Pulitzer, sleep with Marilyn Monroe, and then you can preach your greatness to the choir.

I attribute the defunct performance of Reverend Parris to the character’s archaic fear and wonderment of God. Do such men exist anymore? I don’t think so. We certainly have our share of religious nuts, but to me their extreme devotion isn’t based in teleological astonishment or a reverence for the categorical imperative. Most Christians don’t attend church or believe in God in order to have the makings of the universe explained to them. They have Wikipedia for that. Their religiosity is based in exclusivity. Being Christian for many is an excuse to vilify and/or exclude others from their ideological environment, and by others I mean any person who represents characteristics which stand to confuse, refute, and/or mock the idea of Jehovah creating the universe in seven days, casting Adam and Eve from Eden, and persecuting individuals who want to marry someone of the same gender.

Even Christian extremists know better than to take the Bible’s fables literally. Furthermore, they don’t actually believe in God, never mind fearing or revering him. They attend church because they want themselves to be right and for everyone else to be wrong. It’s the lowest common denominator of self-realization. They fear progress. They are afraid of relinquishing the smallest iota of their ideological power to pacifists, secularists, homosexuals, tree-huggers, socialists, hipsters, vegans, Jews, book-readers, and logicians.

Man needed God to exist so he invented him, but that was a long time ago. We don’t need him anymore and for that reason I found The Crucible exhausting. Money grubbers and jealous lovers manipulating the church for their own gain, people claiming to have seen the devil, and worse, others believing those claims. I could barely sit in my seat. I was literally cringing. At various moments, I wanted to get up and slap a few bitches, Abigail, Reverend Parris, and Deputy Governor Danforth in particular. How could our society and government be so morally corrupt, so intellectually vapid? It made the George W. Bush era look like the flower power ‘60s.

All the evil/satanic melodrama. All that Linda Blair-like screaming. I actually started laughing at the play, and then it dawned on me. Arthur Miller meant for the play to be viewed and directed as a comedy of errors in which the subject of mistaken identity is the devil himself. I am now thinking of revisionist performances/translations of other religious texts under the same concept. Any suggestions?

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