Hysteria is a condition characterized by excitability, anxiety, and uncontrolled feeling. No better is this fact highlighted than in Arthur Miller's classic play, The Crucible. The Crucible is set in Salem, Massachusetts, during the time of the infamous Salem witch trials. The Crucible is a shocking tale of betrayal and deceit, which culminates in the death many of the townspeople.
In the modern-day production of Miller's Crucible, several actors/actresses stand out as having noteworthy performances. No one's performance, however, stands out quite as starkly as that of Ms. Winona Ryder. She commands complete control and understanding of her character. One can say that Ms. Winona Ryder expertly plays the role of Abigail Williams.
In the Puritan town of Salem, all forms of amusement, such as singing, dancing, and reading, is forbidden. As a result, several of the town's young women acquire a liking to dancing in the woods. When they are found dancing in the forest by the town's minister, the only way they can escape punishment is to cry witchcraft.
In the scene from the film where Abigail and Tituba shout out the names of the people they 'saw with the devil,' Ms. Ryder perfectly captures the intended mood. She acts so superbly that the viewer begins to wonder if, in fact, there are people in the town of Salem that have been 'seen with the devil.' She manages to suck the viewer into Salem's hysteria.
Abigail's manipulations of the events that occur in the Salem meetinghouse are perfectly interpreted by Ms. Ryder.
She understands and portrays the intended emotion so well that the viewer begins to believe that there really are spirits loose in the courtroom, and that they have power over the girls.
Ms. Ryder's portrayal of Abigail as an innocent farm girl contributes further to making the viewer believe that she is incapable of fabricating such outlandish stories. She fools the viewer into believing she is an angel. She effortlessly portrays Abigail William's extreme jealousy of John Proctor's wife, Elizabeth, to the viewer.
Winona Ryder's portrayal of Abigail Williams can be seen as the defining interpretation of that role. No one does subtle scheming better than Ms. Ryder. She has the innocent face of a child, but she possesses an unbelievable sense of dramatic understanding. It is this understanding that allows her to leave a lasting impression on those who view her in her element. As such, it can be said that Winona Ryder expertly plays the role of Abigail Williams in The Crucible. The lesson of the Salem witch trials is a hard one. One believes that people like Winona Ryder are valuable for their ability to recount events in a way that makes them seem believable to the viewer.
She is a talented actress. Her star is bright, and, hopefully, it will shine brighter in the future.