Becky Nurse of
Lincoln Center Theater
The Mitzi E. Newhouse
November 26, 2022
Dispelling myths. Facing truths. Releasing the past. Accepting the present. Sara Ruhl’s Becky Nurse of Salem does all of this, and more. It is an emotionally engaging play that makes you look into yourself and recognize the cycle of accusation and victimization that keeps so many of us down. The ending has an empowering effect. Director Rebecca Taichman guided this phenomenal cast to discover truthful characters and create genuine moments while encompassing the wide range of topics Ms. Ruhl addresses in this play.
Becky (played by Deirdre O’Connell) is a tour guide at the Salem Witch Museum. She is the very great granddaughter of Rebecca Nurse, the true character from Arthur Miller’s play The Crucible, who was hanged as a witch in 1692. Becky is fired from her job for speaking honestly to a group of museum visitors and then mouthing off to her supervisor. She looks for a job at the Marriot, where she meets Stan (played by Julian Sanchez). He recommends that she see a witch to help her find a new job, as he did. The witch (played by Candy Buckley) can see that Becky tragically lost her daughter and is struggling to care for her teenage granddaughter, Gail (played by Alicia Crowder), who suffers from depression. When the witch tells Becky it will cost her $400 to release her from the curse she carries from her ancestors, Becky turns to her old friend Bob (played by Bernard White) for a loan. The witch also throws in a love potion for Becky to attract Bob into a romantic relationship. Things get out of hand very quickly as Becky gets caught up in a cycle of self-destruction, and is arrested for breaking and entering. While in jail, she is forced to do without her pain killers, which she is addicted to. During her withdrawal, she faces the haunting of her past. She is able to release the pain of losing her daughter and move forward with a stronger sense of acceptance.
|Deirdre O'Connell as Becky Nurse|
Photo courtesy of Lincoln Center Theater
From the minute the lights come up for her opening monologue, Deirdre O’Connell grabs the audience’s attention and does not let it go for a second. Her character holds nothing back. She is gruff, straight forward, and brutally honest. She tells it like it is, which is why the character of Bob is attracted to her. Bernard White (as Bob) and Ms. O’Connell have a strong connection. The backstory of these characters is alive in every scenes they share. Their attraction is strong and visceral. These two actors allow their characters to grow and change through their interactions, keeping the story richly engaging.
Candy Buckley is mysterious and funny as the witch. Ms. Ruhl has sharply written this character to include a shrewd balance of truthful insight and selfish chicanery. Julian Sanchez and Alicia Crowder are solid as Stan and Gail. The focus goes to both of these actors during their scenes, which is important since their characters play vital roles in the objectives and actions of the main character (Becky).
Ms. Ruhl tackles a heavy load in this play. She challenges Arthur Miller’s chronicling of the Salem witch trials in The Crucible. She magnifies the objectification of the women in history who were falsely accused and murdered. She points a finger at the causes of addiction, taking the pressure off the user so they can focus on healing. She gives voice to the accused, not as a defense, but as a request to be seen. The emotional impact of the final moment of the play is clear evidence of Ms. Ruhl’s success in the taking on of these heavy challenges. This is an important play for the healing of our present situation, just as The Crucible was when it was written in 1953.
Rebecca Nurse of Salem is playing at Lincoln Center’s Mitzi Newhouse. Don’t miss it!