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John Proctor is the Villain

A must see.

John Proctor is the Villain is a play by Kimberly Belflower, directed by Marti Lyons at the Studio Theatre. A very worthwhile two hours in the theater. It’s about gender relations, very current, and the acting is wonderful. 

It is a play in two acts and the first starts out a little slow and by the end of it you wonder what took them so long to get to the point. But by the end of the play, as the story builds and the characters come into their own, you understand how the topic so difficult for adults to grasp, is even more so for highschoolers.  

The play takes you into the lives of seven students, their English teacher and their guidance counselor, in a small rural Georgia town. Whereas at the beginning you wonder if the students are capable of deep thought, you end up feeling for them as they come to grips with the issues, what they are personally going through, and really admire their ability to deal with it. The play takes its lead from the ‘#MeToo’ movement and uses teaching of the Crucible and the Salem witch trials to the English class, allowing them to dissect how men treat, or really mistreat, women. 

John Proctor is the Villain
Photo by Margot Schulman Courtesy Studio Theatre

The play opens with the class reacting negatively, and with funny comments, as a typical HS class would, to a sex education lecture from their English teacher Carter Smith (Dave Register). Carter Smith seems very bland until the end of the play when Register’s acting chops are visible and one understands more about why Carter seems to want his class to see the growing #Metoo movement as more of a modern-day witch-hunt. 

The two guys in the class make typical HS student comments.  Mason Adams (Ignacio Diaz-Silverio) grows on you throughout the play and has his most shining moment in a scene with new student to the school Nell Shaw (Deidre Staples) who shines brightly from the moment she speaks. 

As the play moves forward the girls in the class get together to form a club on ‘feminism’ and it is in that setting they begin to understand each other and what men have done to their friend and how they hold women down. It is in the club we are first introduced to the guidance counselor Bailey Gallagher (Lida Maria Benson) and to Shelby Holcomb (Juliana Sass) who is the classmate who has been abused by a man and has had to deal with this on her own, too afraid to speak out. When she finally does in a scene in the classroom the audience lets out a uniform gasp. Sass is amazing to watch as she deals with Shelby’s issues and with her classmates’ reactions to her. 

No less exciting to watch are her classmates as they deal with her and each other including Raelynn Nix (Jordan Slattery) the preacher’s daughter; Beth Powell (Miranda Rizzolo) who is the student leader who changes the most during the play; Lee Turner (Zachary Keller) who is the student who had sex with Shelby while cheating on Raelynn and plays the typical hunky highschooler who thinks it is all ok as long as you apologize later. He has one really strong scene where he gets to show his real acting skills. Then there is Ivy Watkins (Resa Mishina) whose father is accused of impropriety with an employee and the girls in the class rethink how they interacted with him during sleepovers at Ivy’s house.  Remember this is a small town where everyone knows everyone else’s business.  A little like DC, LOL.

While there isn’t much new in this play for those who have followed the headlines the last few years, seeing them dealt with by this high school class is riveting. It leads one to believe if we were to teach about this issue to every child, we could in some way ensure a more equal society. These girls will grow up to be strong women who will not accept being subservient to any man and hopefully the boys will understand how they should interact with women.  The creative team are very talented including Sound Designer Kathy Ruvuna, Lighting Designer Jesse Belsky and Costume Designer Moyenda Kulemeka.

Again, I would urge everyone to see this play and I would even suggest you take your high school student, if you have one, with you. John Proctor is the Villain will be at Studio through June 5th. Tickets are available online at Studio Theatre