by Willard Manus
Jen Silverman pretty much savages the modern world in WITCH, her fiendishly clever adaptation of the Jacobean drama, "The Witch of Edmonton," now running at the Geffen Playhouse.
slang with period talk, Silverman depicts mankind as grasping, greedy
and murderous, except for the village witch, Elizabeth Sawyer (the gritty
Maura Tierney), who is the only one in the village with any common decency.
A feminist icon in Silverman's hands, she sees right through male pretense,
patriarchy and chauvinism...and even rejects the blandishments of the
devil when he comes on to her. Called Scratch (Evan Jonigkeit), this "junior"
devil turns up in Edmonton like a traveling salesman, offering Fustian
bargains to one and all: he'll do your bidding--make you rich, kill your
enemies, etc.--in return for your soul. In Elizabeth's case, he's so smitten
with her that he eventually breaks a company rule. He'll give her love...with
nothing expected in return. Tempted as she is, Elizabeth turns him down:
she simply can't believe in men's words--or even in hope itself.
Banks (Brian George) rules the roost, sounding off pompously about family
legacy, power and property. He also rips into his gay son, Cuddy (Will
Von Vogt), for having failed to marry and present him with progeny. Cuddy,
who would rather spend his time Morris dancing rather than exploiting
peasants and hunting birds, begins to boil with rage when he realizes
Sir Arthur is thinking of cutting him out of his will and leaving everything
to Frank Thorney (Ruy Iskander), a commoner who has become the old man's
pet. Cuddy quickly signs a contract with the devil, telling him "you
can have my soul if you promise to kill Frank."