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Allen O’Reilly, Kate Fitzgerald and Gabriel Portuondo star in The Crucible at Bay Street Theater starting tonight. (Photo credit: Phil Merritt)

The great American writer Arthur Miller’s Tony Award-winning play The Crucible opens to the public at Bay Street Theater in Sag Harbor tonight.

Originally written in 1953, the gripping play is a dramatized, partially fictionalized narrative for the wave of McCarthyism Miller himself experienced at the time of the writing but set in the backdrop of a Puritan village during the Salem witch trials in 17th-century Massachusetts.

(Photo credit: Phil Merritt)

“Arthur Miller’s masterpiece is always timely and always thrilling to watch, but Bay Street feels it speaks particularly to this moment, when questions of truth, justice, reputation and the politicization of all three are ones with which our country is wrestling,” says Scott Schwartz, artistic director at Bay Street. “I think whatever your political stripes, the play will be thought provoking and will feel urgent and compelling. It’s also deeply moving and exciting too.”

Wrought with themes of deception, the misuse of power, paranoia, and fear, Bay Street’s rendition is directed by Texas-born Will Pomerantz who also serves as the theater’s associate artistic director.

In what he calls “a joy to work on,” Pomerantz says The Crucible is an exploration of “the dangers of a community that acts in fear,” observing “this beautifully written piece of work not only gets at the truth but forces us to get to an agreement of what the truth is.”

Using a pool of local actors, Pomerantz says his interpretation is a compact, lean version of the classic play, honoring the silhouette of the period, but honing in on the issues still prevalent today. “This use of power and fear was occurring in the not-so-distant past,” he says. “The fear of women, the fear of the power of women, the sexuality of women.” Pointing out the costumes will be slightly more modern for the male characters, Pomerantz says “the women’s clothing in the play is closer to the period, to really express how the autonomy of women is under attack.” Sound familiar?

The Crucible is this year’s selection for Bay Street’s Literature Live!, an arts-in-education program that brings classic, curriculum-based literature to life on the stage, offering free performances to school groups. Now in its fifteenth year, the series was started by Bay Street’s executive director Tracy Mitchell in an effort to expose theater and the performing arts to students.

(Photo credit: Phil Merritt)

“When we were deciding on what play to produce for our Literature Live production this year, one title kept rising up— The Crucible,” says Scott Schwartz, artistic director at Bay Street. “It was the most requested play from schools and it also felt very timely to us. We’re so happy to offer it to both students (for free) and to our whole community this month!”

Free admission is available to all school students, teachers and administrators who can reserve weekday performances at times that work on a first-come, first-serve basis. Each student performance will include a Q&A session and talkback with various members of the Bay Street team.

“Our approach to this production is to strip it down it its essential core— focusing on the brilliant dialogue, fascinating characters, and great story,” Schwartz says. “I think this is a Crucible that will penetrate deep into the audience’s heart.” Tickets for the public performance start at $37 and are available here or by calling the box office at 631-725-9500. Teachers and school administrators can register their school groups by contacting Allen O’Reilly, Bay Street’s director of education and community outreach (he’s also in the play!), at [email protected] or by calling 631-725-0818 ext. 213. Tonight’s performance starts at 7 p.m.. On Saturday, November 11, there’s a sensory-friendly performance at 2 p.m.. Performances of The Crucible will be available to the public Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays throughout the next few weeks, with the final performance on Sunday, November 26, at 2 p.m.