Review: The Witch of Edmonton

A Jacobean rarity casts a frail spell.

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  • Photograph: Carol Rosegg

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Photograph: Carol Rosegg

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Time Out Ratings

<strong>Rating: </strong>3/5

The city's boldest classical troupe, Red Bull Theater favors theatrical meat that is not just rare but bloody. The Witch of Edmonton qualifies on both counts: A 1625 muddle of melodrama, comedy, social critique and morality play, it has never been produced Off Broadway, and four of its characters die violently. Company chief Jesse Berger stages these people's bad ends with brio, but their mediocre starts and middles moot his commendable efforts.

Charlayne Woodard plays Elizabeth Sawyer, a poor old stick-collector abused by her neighbors; bent on revenge, she strikes a deal with a demon—Derek Smith, his body taut with ferocious intent—who appears as a ragged cur. (The powers of Hell prove unequal to the scorned woman's fury.) Meanwhile, the duplicitous Frank (Justin Blanchard) hides his pregnant wife, Winifred (Miriam Silverman), so that he can marry and murder the wealthy Susan (Christina Pumariega, movingly raw). Elizabeth's clownish neighbor Cuddy (a perfectly dopey Adam Green) befriends the hellhound in a comical side story.

Written by three men who do not seem to have been on speaking terms, The Witch of Edmonton is stitched with flimsy thread, now tattered with age. Berger does his best to unify the helter-skelter script, and the production's designers and cast (including Andr De Shields and Everett Quinton in tiny parts) are up to Red Bull's usual high standards. But whatever interest the play may have for scholars, onstage it seems academic: a witch trial equipped with low stakes and little fire.

Theatre at St. Clement's (see Off Broadway). By Thomas Dekker, John Ford and William Rowley. Dir. Jesse Berger. With ensemble cast. 2hrs 30mins. One intermission.

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