In Salem, Massachusetts, 1692, accusations of witchcraft are rife. John Proctor (Daniel Day-Lewis) and his wife Elizabeth (Joan Allen) are innocent of any such charges, although John has committed adultery with their former serving girl, Abigail Williams (Winona Ryder). When witch expert John Hale is called in to investigate the reports of witchcraft, Abigail attempts to implicate Elizabeth, thinking that she will then be able to resume her affair with John. Arthur Miller's play was originally written as an allegory for the Joseph McCarthy American 'witch-hunt' trials of the 1950s.
The Salem witch hunts are given a new and nasty perspective when a vengeful teenage girl uses superstition and repression to her advantage, creating a killing machine that becomes a force unto itself. Pulsating with seductive energy, this provocative drama is as visually arresting as it is intellectually engrossing. Arthur Miller based his classic 1953 play on the actual Salem witch trials of 1692, creating what has since become a durable fixture of school drama courses. It may look like a historical drama but Miller also meant the work as a parable for the misery created by the McCarthy anti-Communist hearings of the 1950s. This searing version of his drama delves into matters of conscience with concise accuracy and emotional honesty. Three passionate cheers for Miller, director Nicholas Hytner and costars Daniel Day-Lewis and Winona Ryder. --Rochelle O'Gorman