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The CRUCIBLE, Bog Theatre. Arthur Miller's Tony-winning protest play goes beyond a vivid depiction of resistance to the 1692 Salem witch-hunt to precisely picture a theocratic town's capitulation to fear, warn against confusing church with state, provide an ironic gloss on the 50s Red scare (as well as the Japanese-American internment), and create a timeless tragedy in which an individual defies the public lies that kill.

Somehow Bog Theatre manages to miss all this. Marred by stiff blocking, a halting pace, skittish declamations and recitations, and acting as wooden as colonial cross beams, Daniel Scott's underrehearsed staging captures little of the plot's urgency, the town's hysteria, or the script's eloquence. This witch-hunt by-the-numbers, a dull melodrama, is a far cry from Raven Theatre's spellbinding 1992 revival and the recent film version with Winona Ryder and Daniel Day-Lewis.

Though some performances are tentative, sadly the stronger actors seem to overact. Such skilled work as Richard Henzel's witch-hanging prosecutor and Rossana Di Silvio's easily intimidated Mary Warren gets little support from a maddeningly uneven ensemble. Bog Theatre's descent into community theater disappoints: last season's Of Mice and Men was a persuasive revival of an American classic, a high-water mark. This time they're bogged down. --Lawrence Bommer

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