Review A Voice in the Dark

By Paul Castaneda

Community theater serves an important purpose in any city’s healthy theatrical life. It is a place for new actors to work on their craft, for part time actors or those that follow it as an avocation to do the same and a place where, perhaps, underperformed works can see the light of day. And, at its best, community theater can serve, like its professional brethren, as a place to use dramatic constructs to shine a light on modern issues.

Breakthrough Theatre’s production of A VOICE IN THE DARK, A SALEM STORY by Elizabeth Downing does just that under the fine direction of Wade Hair.  By now, most, if not all of us are familiar with the Salem witch trials in general and with dramatic representations of same from the very well known The Crucible by Arthur Miller.  In this much more human an quite claustrophobic construct, we meet the Nurse family in Salem, mother/father/children, who are attempting to live a godly life and deal with the realities of life, including financial. But, therein lies the rub…and the fulcrum point of the tale. Francis Nurse seeks to sell his land for profit to a buyer not approved of by Thomas Putnam, who envisions the land as something he should be able to buy and control (probably at a discount).  Additionally,Putnam ( married man) has leering eyes for Rebecca Nurse, the matriarch, and wishes her to use her influence to persuade her husband to Putnam’s advantage. He is rebuffed on both counts.

Putnam , his wife and allies use the Church and trumped up charges of devil worship and witchery to apply pressure to the entire town and to the Nurse family.  Caught in between is Abigail Hobbs, teenage friend of the Nurse’s daughter, Sarah.  Abigail is an eyewitness who can clear the Nurse family, but at what personal cost?

I don’t believe in spoilers in reviews, so I encourage you to find out how it all turns out for yourselves by attending. I will offer that I found the focus on teenagers on both sides of the issue to be a fresh look at the ways in which the innocence and immaturity of youth can lead to both great acts of courage and also terrifying acts of damage.  Thematically, I think the “safe space” for modern audiences of Salem can perhaps allow them to look at how religion(s) can be weaponized to destroy lives and alter society for the worse when misused by power hungry “leaders” for personal, earthly gains. Again, i leave it to audience members to draw whatever connections they wish to what is going on all around us…but, I assure you the connections exist.
This production features some very noteworthy performances.Hunter Rogers delivers a deliciously villainous turn as  Thomas Putnam, one that had me fondly remembering the villains from the suspense filled films of the 30’s and 40’s. Allison Young, as Anne Putnam, shows us exactly how constructs of power can be used and abused for very personal gains, even non financial ones, under the guise of “helping” and whilst excusing it all just the way things are in the world.Kalina Petrova delivers a great performance as Abigail, the fulcrum point of the piece. Her conflicted positions and the turmoil it puts her through is earnestly delivered throughout and her ultimate decisions leave us with hope.

But,the true revelation in this cast is Tatiana Lyn as Rebecca Nurse.  She fills the role with quiet confidence, steely resolve and the true definitions of faith and trust in her maker. Her mini soliloquy to her Lord in Act 2 was both beautiful and painful at once and her refusal to say that which wasn’t true in the face of quite dire consequences was a fine model of living a godly life to its end. One can envision a bright future for Ms. Lyn in theater and beyond.

A VOICE IN THE DARK, A SALEM STORY is well worth your time and its ticket price, both for the entertainment value it brings and for the things it will have you musing over long after you’ve left the building.  Make sure to catch it before its close.

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