By E.M. Fredric
WESTWOOD, CA - 09/08/2019 - The Geffen has been making more hits than misses this past year and Witch is no exception to their choice in plays to produce. This wonderful take on witches, devils, souls along with the state of the world (then and now) is written with great comedic aplomb by Jen Silverman. She feeds her actors’– in this retelling of a Jacobean drama – roles with delicious choices of the absurd nuanced reality set against all that’s royal.
We quickly find that Elizabeth (Maura Tierney) is a banished woman who has been assigned the title of a witch. Sir Arthur (Brian George) decides to bring in a lesser class but oh-so-popular local – Frank Thorney (Ruy Iskandar) as his second son, so that he’ll produce an heir. Sir Arthur’s real son, Cuddy (Will Von Vogt) likes/loves/hates Frank and won’t be producing an heir anytime soon but the jealous rivalry between the two makes for fantastic fodder.
Everyone seems to have a secret or want to sell their soul quickly to the devilishly handsome, Scratch (Evan Jonigkeit). He’s a devil who has had many forms and he’s collecting souls in exchange for promised deeds (which he forgets to do the paperwork on). Scratch is more of a devil-in-training. Instead of fire he actually has heart – surprising himself as much as us.
The servant (Vella Lovell) is married to Frank and Cuddy wants her to marry him because she’s pregnant – all fantastical yet all-too-real situations revealing what people do to get what they want – not what they deserve and vice-versa.
Elizabeth surprises Scratch by saying no to selling her soul initially and by the end we realize she was willing to all along but the two do a dance of seeing one another for who they are not who they are presented as - in terms of labels. She’s not really the witch and Scratch is changed deeply by their interactions and he regales us with a spectacular monologue at the end.
Witch succeeds on every level. The set has the upper class world set with a huge table that expands out and retreats to give us the intimate moments where Elizabeth lives. Barefoot in the dirt. Is there hope for our world? Is anything worth hoping for or should we just blow it all up and start from scratch – so many questions and nuances are laid out. Kudos to cast, playwright and every designer connected to this project.
If you’ve got friends coming into town, do NOT miss this show. Bring them. Your stomach will hurt from laughing. My best 92-year-old friend said, “This is funny!” during a moment in the play - we were seated in the first row. The actor playing the devil thanked him and the laughs continued on from there.
RUN to this show - best 95 minutes of theatre happening now with no false notes! Richly acted and rousingly moving with flawless direction by Marti Lyons.
Witch runs at the Audrey Skirball Kenis Theater at the Geffen Playhouse - 10886 Le Conte Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90024 - through September 29th. The running time is 95 minutes with no intermission. Tickets start at $30 and can be purchased by phone at: (310) 208-5454 or online: GEFFEN PLAYHOUSE
A review can be read both online and in hard copy at: Brooklyn and Boyle.