There’s a lot to think about in “Witch,” Jen Silverman’s new play now at Writers Theatre. Staged in Writers’ intimate Gillian Theatre, the acting is first rate as cast members portray issues and problems Silverman raises that are both age-old and au courant.
Six characters, Sir Arthur David Alan Anderson), lord of the castle and village Elizabeth (Audrey Francis), viewed by the village as a witch, Cuddy (Steve Haggard), Sir Arthur’s son, Frank Thorny (Jon Hudson Odom), a villager that Sir Arthur sees as the son he wishes he had , Winnifred (Arti Ishak) a villager/cum castle maid supposedly married to Frank, and Scratch (Ryan Hallahan, a handsome devil, grapple with issues ranging from homosexuality, women’s status, ambition and using violence to solve problems to patriarchal desires, community biases based on underlying fear, despair, revolution maybe, and hope.
If that isn’t enough, there is are underlying themes of achieving one’s wish through outside forces such as help from the devil or by one’s self and what would drive a person to sell one’s soul.
Wow, those are a lot of issues to cover in a 95 minute show and would likely bring about lively post show discussions. There will be post show conversations after Tuesday and Wednesday night shows and at special events Oct. 28 at 11:30 a.m. and Nov. 12 at 6:30 p.m.
The play, inspired by “The Witch of Edmonton” written by William Rowley, Thomas Dekker and John Ford in 1621, is set during the Jacobean era. However, it uses contemporary phraseology such as the discussion between Elizabeth and devil where she asks if they are “on the clock” meaning are his arguments an effort to get her to agree to trade her soul for what she wants or are they merely having an intriguing conversation.
The Jacobean-period setting when King James VI of Scotland ruled 1567 to 1625 and became King of England as James I in 1603, was interesting but arguably conflicted with 21st century vocabulary.
The same issues have existed for centuries as was noted by Jean-Bapatiste Alphonse Karr’s quote, “plus ca change…” (the more things change, the more they stay the same.
Given that the problems still exist and the idea of witches among us still exists, Silverman’s play could be placed at any time similarly to how the plays of William Shakespeare have been re-set.
But because the play is well-directed by Marti Lyons, the acting is exceptional and the thoughts are compelling, maybe audiences won’t mind the discrepancy between the period and the vocabulary.
DETAILS: “Witch” is at Writers Theatre, 325 Tudor Court, Glencoe, through Dec. 16, 2018. Running time: 95 min., no intermission. For tickets and other information call (847) 242-6000 and visit Writers Theatre.
For more shows visit Theatre in Chicago