Review: Cry Innocent!, Salem MA (3.5 stars)
Last year, the team from Events INSIDER went on a 10-day Halloween blitz! In October 2013, I visited 28 attractions to bring you reviews and information on everything Halloween in New England. We went indoors and outdoors as far north as New Hampshire, as far south as Rhode Island, and as far west as Connecticut. Don’t forget to visit http://EventsINSIDER.com, where we list more creative October events than anyplace else!
Cry Innocent! answers the biggest question in Salem: how could the Salem Witch Trials of 1692 have happened? What led the townspeople to execute so many innocent people? So they get an automatic bump up in their rating for taking on such an important topic and being historically accurate. That is fantastic. That being said, my rating of 3.5 stars is up from what was only a 3-star show.
The show itself was slightly repetitive and could have been half the length. Cast members portray old timey villagers with grievances and delusions against Bridget Bishop, who stands accused of being a witch. The historical accuracy of these accusations has led the production to make the dialogue deep and brainy — for which they should be applauded! But unfortunately, the acoustics in the giant town hall caused echoes such that the actors simply could not be understood. A play should not have nuances if the venue doesn’t allow for nuances. Afterwards, I spoke with one of the organizers who was aware of the acoustic problems. Unfortunately, because their venue is the historic Old Salem Town Hall, fire codes are severe and they are not permitted to hang up fabrics to baffle the sound. But I did notice that on the first floor they have built an entire museum with things hung on the walls and wonder if a solution really is genuinely impossible or just needs more thinking. Perhaps they could have taken a trick from The House of the Seven Gables and broken the play into four acts: one in the basement, one outside, one downstairs, and one upstairs, each of which could have a smaller audience. The smaller your audience, the less trouble with raised voices and echoes. Or perhaps the show should be moved into a different venue.
I was also struck by the odd combination of a very serious topic: an innocent person about to lose her life, versus all the humor in the play. Certainly the humor was well needed to entertain us as we didn’t quite understand the intricacies of the accusations, but it was a conflict with the subject matter. Kudos however, to the troupe for allowing plenty of audience interaction. The audience was glad to play along. When asked to make a comment, I even got to accuse someone of also being a witch.
There is tremendous potential in Cry Innocent, which runs the June to October and I am certain that their venue limitations can be overcome with time and that they will find the right balance between brainy and accessible, and between serious and entertaining. Despite my reservations, nowhere else in Salem have more learned something that goes beyond names and dates to the heart of why people sometimes turn on each other.
This review was from Events INSIDER’s 2013 10-day Halloween blitz, where we visited 28 attractions across New England. Visit http://EventsINSIDER.com, where you’ll find more fun Halloween and October events than anywhere else!