Let’s start by acknowledging that when discussing Ted Cruz performing in “The Crucible” it is impossible to avoid using the pun “Cruzible.” (This pun, which conjures images of Cruz as a “Grease”-era John Travolta type gyrating on a car roof whilst spouting poetic on mortality, feels oily to even write, let alone say. Poor Arthur Miller, cringing and whimpering in his grave.)
Anyways, yes, The Cruzible exists — and what better occasion to revisit it than the opening of a new revival of Miller’s much-performed play about the Salem Witch Trials – an allegory for the McCarthy era of Communist trials —on Broadway this week? In 1993, unsuspecting audiences for the Harvard Law School production of the play witnessed Cruz in the role of the self-absorbed, self-pitying Reverend Samuel Parris, video of which the Boston Globe uncovered footage in 1993. It’s an amusing performance — Cruz’s character is basically just a privileged authoritarian figure moaning that others are persecuting him, a claim with which literally no one else agrees — and also, of course, vaguely terrifying, especially given Cruz’s recent suggestion that it would be proper to “patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods.”
Some other unfavorable parallels can be drawn between Cruzible Cruz, whose performance is rather shout-y and one-dimensional, and contemporary Cruz, who is, well, sort of the same. Watching Cruz as Parris hands held together in appeal, tread happily into holier-than-thou territory — “I left a thrifty business in Barbados to serve the Lord” — it’s easy to mistake the performance for another day on the campaign trail. One wonders in which role he’s won more heartfelt applause.
On a final note, the video’s poor quality is a real positive: Cruz, who is dressed in all black, appears to have glowing white skin and no facial features – sort of like a vociferous Texan ghost – and at certain very special points actually appears to have a caricature-large head on top of a tiny slender body. (Try around 50 seconds in.) This is an image I will treasure until I, like Arthur Miller, am in my grave.
Talya Zax is the Forward’s culture intern. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter, @TalyaZax