It takes a strong woman to play a witch, tempted to sell her soul to the devil, and Maura Tierney brilliantly rises to the occasion in “Witch,” now in its run at the Geffen Playhouse. In this dark fairy tale comedy, Tierney brings to life the contrast of eerie darkness and vivid color with intense character development from start to finish. Playwright Jen Silverman has a forte of writing for strong women in “Witch,” her latest play. One draws from her obvious fascination with the heavy concepts of good vs. evil; despair vs. hope, that this play will touch on these themes, reflected by the eyes on the portrait we see as we first enter the theatre. The devil, Scratch (Evan Jonigkeit) is in the details, as he delivers a compelling performance, trying to convince and persuade the gullible Frank Thorney (Ruy Iskandar) and Cuddy Banks (Will Von Vogt) to sell their souls in exchange for wish fulfillment. We learn of Frank’s and Cuddy’s inner yearnings and agendas as they soul search and etch a deal with the devil Scratch. Enter strong Elizabeth Sawyer (Tierney), where a match of keen wits is clearly a most memorable , unpredictable scene of the play. Her beauty on the surface is only matched by her inner beauty which lies beneath. She, too, is tempted by the devil to sell her soul, but initially thinks better of it. Another female force not to be reckoned with is the lovely maiden Winnifred (Vella Lovell). As the eyes are often considered the ‘mirrors of the soul,’ the set is symbolic, indeed, featuring a haunting portrait focusing on the eyes of the late wife of Sir Arthur Banks (Brian George). It’s as if she’s witnessing the entire debacle through her leering eyes, and the audience can’t help but wonder about her thoughts from the other side . These eyes lure the audience into the dark yet comedic drama about to unfold. A true standout of “Witch” is Will Von Vogt in his exquisite solo dance. The choreography (Jessica Lee Keller) reveals Cuddy’s dexterity and skill as a Morris dancer.
Playwright Jen Silverman explains, “The Witch of Edmonton is the only play I encountered from that time that boldly announces to the audience that it is going to do this exact thing, and then does entirely the opposite.” Her keen ability to create a revival of this classic piece by Jacobean playwrights Rowley, Dekker, and Ford is something not to be missed, as she recreates the story, now set in contemporary times, even more so resonating with audiences today. With characters such as devil, witch, and a spooky, almost haunted palace, what better way to bring in the pre-Halloween season.