Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

33° Evanston, IL
Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Email Newsletter

Sign up to receive our email newsletter in your inbox.



Sit & Spin’s ‘John Proctor is the Villain’ doesn’t take itself seriously enough

Sonya Dymova / The Daily Northwestern
“John Proctor is the Villain” explores friendship, power, and self-healing in a classroom setting.

Content warning: This story contains mentions of sexual assault.

Sit & Spin Productions kicked off Northwestern’s fall theater season last Friday in Shanley Pavilion with “John Proctor is the Villain.” Watching it was an act of patience. 

At its best, the production brought to life the chaotic beauty of playwright Kimberly Belflower’s writing. However, jarring and inconsistent directing choices never allowed me to settle into the world of the play.

The script itself is a compelling and raw celebration of girlhood. At the center of the narrative is a group of four teenage girls who start a Feminism Club at their school. 

Brainy and high-strung Beth (Communication junior Natalie Tangeman), introspective transfer student Nell (Communication junior Yuni Mora), Raelynn (Communication senior Kylie Kim) and subdued Ivy (Communication senior Elizabeth Yang) make up the ensemble. The actors, with their stellar chemistry and comedic timing, were highlights of the production.

The girls are soon forced to reconcile their personal relationships with their progressive politics when Ivy’s father, along with their teacher Mr. Carter (Communication senior Declan Collins) are accused of sexual assault. 

Another complication arises when classmate Shelby (Communication sophomore Poseybelle Stoeffler) returns after leaving the previous semester with no explanation.

Belflower forms each character with specificity and care. This is an impressive feat, as teenagers are notoriously hard to capture. “John Proctor is the Villain” is a vibrant portrait of adolescence: frenzied, salacious, comical and at times overwhelming.

The show begins in the dark. Voices sing a haunting choral refrain: “I went to the woods / The devil, he told me to go…”

Then, blue lights illuminate the stage. The high schoolers settle into their seats ― accompanied by the booming bass and whirring engines of hip-hop song “Tomboy” by Princess Nokia ― a jolting switch in sound.

One could argue that the two songs reflect the differing worlds of Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible” and modern day America, but the sonic experience was jolting.

At times, the songs played between scenes were clever responses to the dialogue, a credit to Communication senior Lou Stockmeyer’s sound design. In one scene, a song gradually drowns out the sound of Beth ranting during a club meeting. Other times, they distracted from the plot. 

After Shelby reveals that Mr. Carter sexually assaulted her, the lights dim as two male classmates, Mason (Communication junior Kieran Rowe) and Lee (Communication junior Eli Blanks) step forward. In a bizarre turn of events, they begin a choreographed dance to “No Hands” by Waka Flocka Flame.

It was a moment of forced levity that soured my opinion of the production.

The directing team redeems themselves during the second half of the play, refining the transition scenes and allowing the script to shine. But the moment stuck with me nevertheless. 

The final moment of the play was particularly poignant: Shelby and Raelynn unabashedly dance to Lorde’s “Green Light” during their final project as Mr. Carter orders them to be seated. Some in the class watch in disgust, others in awe and some join in. The surrounding lights dim as a green spotlight shines on Shelby. A moment of freedom.

Email: [email protected] 

Twitter: @jahariia

Related Stories:

Opening the curtains on how to join Northwestern theatre groups

Comedy-horror play ‘Spoiler Alert: Somebody Dies’ shocks with interactive theatre experience

‘So much feeling’: Sit & Spin Productions’ ‘Stupid F–ing Bird’ explores life, love and art

More to Discover