PICKSINSIX Review: WITCH
Jen Sliverman’s absorbing new dark comedy “Witch,” now in its world premiere production at the Gillian Theatre at Writers in Glencoe, is set in the village of Edmonton in a time long ago with edgy, contemporary dialogue. Inspired by the 1621 play “The Witch of Edmonton,” by William Rowley, Thomas Dekker and John Ford, “Witch” tells the story of Elizabeth (Audrey Francis), a mysterious village resident with an equally mysterious past, Sir Arthur, the castle-dweller (David Alan Anderson), his son, Cuddy (Steve Haggard), ward, Frank (Jon Hudson Odom) and the winsome maid, Winnifred (Arti Ishak), all of whom, one way or the other, are about to have a life-changing encounter with Scratch (Ryan Hallahan) on the terms for their respective souls.
Not long after Cuddy sells his soul, he is hatching a scheme to turn the tables on Frank. Meanwhile, Scratch learns that Elizabeth, the talk of the town, may well be a witch. But when Scratch comes with his own personal sales pitch, Elizabeth is not buying. In fact, for the first time ever, Scratch appears to be getting nowhere.
During the era associated with this play, which is hard to nail precisely, witches tend to make people uncomfortable. According to Elizabeth, they feel like outcasts, not equal to men and resent being subjugated and dismissed. So, when the Devil makes his entrée to Elizabeth, it is no surprise that she wants much more. For starters, you need to talk to her like a man. And you better be ready to up the ante for this soul, sister.
For his part, Scratch has not taken the shape of a dog (although that would have been a good bit of business), but rather a handsome, soft-spoken young man who gave up assuming the embodiment of women, he says, because he was tired of people simply admiring him, ah, her. That all sounds familiar to Elizabeth, but her guard remains way up. Meanwhile, back at the castle, Sir Arthur is considering his legacy and heir. Will it be the snivelling Cuddy or the scheming Frank?
This is an introspective piece, with truly inspired comic moments, that ultimately tackles the very serious topics of sexism and avarice through the ages, while addressing the hopelessness that we all face from time to time: a desire to push the reset button and start all over again.
All of the flawed characters in “Witch” are vulnerable, including Scratch himself. That fact alone is reason enough to see Silverman’s new work and examine the power of deception and deceit for yourself.