Burbage Theatre Co continues their 11th season with the RI premiere of Jen Silverman’s WITCH, directed by member Allison Crews. “I’ve been looking forward to this one,” says Artistic Director Jeff Church. “The devil is coming to Burbage. In short, WITCH has Burbage written all over it — a strong ensemble piece with humor, a touch of horror, a classical feel brought with irreverent force into the present and ideas that leave a mark, expertly revealed. Loosely based on the Jacobean drama, The Witch of Edmonton, this haunting and hysterical play promises to engross audiences with its nuanced and modern storytelling.”
This drama is a modern take on a premise you’ve heard and can relate to: selling your soul to the devil to get what you want in the moment. Church is undoubtedly proud to present this exciting tale. “Silverman has unearthed a timeless story about power, identity, and the lengths to which we’ll go to get what we need, as well as what is revealed by our actions. The anticipation of what comes next — looming over your head like an ominous cloud — will keep you on the edge of your seat. With the expert direction of Allison Crews, an incredible and more than perfectly cast ensemble of actors, and a dream-team design team, this RI premiere is set to be a truly unforgettable experience.”
The devil, aka “Scratch”, is gleefully portrayed by Zack Gibb and dressed in black leather pants, raincoat and an obligatory bad boy earring. He’s got ideas for collecting souls but has quite the time of it while trying to trade with an outcast named Elizabeth, expertly portrayed by MJ Daly, who isn’t very witchy at all. In fact, she is all about love and compassion, and pooh-poohs the notion she is a witch, although she isn’t powerless here. Despite Scratch’s sales pitches, she ain’t buyin’ it, and he develops a loving respect he’s never felt before.
The 15th century sleepy village is shaken to its core by Scratch’s presence. When the conflicted son of the local lord (Alex Crespo Rosario as Cuddy Banks) and an ambitious interloper (Jared Nobrega as Frank Thorney) bang heads, Scratch doesn’t have to hard-sell them his favors. Although these two young men consider taking advantage of Scratch’s bargain to accomplish their own agendas, a sweet young maid named Winnifred, skillfully portrayed by Mary Mullane, is wrenched between the two. Stirring the pot is Cuddy’s ambitious father, Sir Arthur Banks (Aaron Morris). There really are no stand outs here, as all performers are convincing and mesh equally well together. They cry, dance and brawl (seriously!). They even laugh, as will you!
Costume Designer Riley Nedder makes sure the period garb, other than for Scratch, is spot on. Mindful of the roles being played, it’s no mistake Thorney is in black while Cuddy wears white (and what better color to show off blood in a splendidly macabre dance performance). Additionally, the impressive lighting design by Kelly Slader, never overbearing or devoid, is adroit in its changing function. While WITCH may feel a tad too long at times, you’ll love the performance — especially Rosario’s dance sequence which he choreographed himself.
Burbage Theatre Co presents WITCH through April 9. For more information, visit www.burbagetheatre.org or call (401) 484-0355.