The Faustian bargains in Witch take on extra resonance in the current political climate | Theater Review | Chicago Reader

The Faustian bargains in Witch take on extra resonance in the current political climate 

The devil has a much easier time raking up the souls of castle-dwelling men.

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Michael Brosilow

When the devil comes a-knockin' on the door of village pariah Elizabeth (Audrey Francis) to offer a Faustian bargain for her soul, he tries out a unique sales pitch: Everyone in town already believes her to be a witch and treats her accordingly. So why not lean into it and actually reap some perks?

A colloquial, contemporary-language riff on the 1621 drama The Witch of Edmonton, Jen Silverman's one-act dark comedy flashes between Satan's (Ryan Hallahan) long-game hard sell to Elizabeth and the much easier time he has raking up the souls of his castle-dwelling male clients. The murder of a personal rival, the inheritance of a name; folks at the top, it would seem, are eager to rationalize cashing in on their sense of morality upon the slightest slip down the social ladder.

In our present moment, when the abuser logic of look what you made me do has somehow become a salient political argument, Silverman's meaty, messy, whip-smart script takes on extra resonance.

But Marti Lyons's absorbing and thoughtful production for Writers Theatre touches upon far more than gender and class alone. In noble banquet scenes (gorgeously rendered by scenic designer Yu Shibagaki and prop master Scott Dickens), an entitled brat (Steve Haggard) and his far more admirable adoptive brother (Jon Hudson Odom) debate the expiration dates of humble origin stories and their supposed virtues.

Lyons's cast is compelling from top to bottom (Francis, as a deadpan, strong-willed Elizabeth, is a consistent scene stealer), and without spoiling anything, a shocking sequence fight-choreographed by Matt Hawkins is undoubtedly one of the richest, most visceral scenes to play out on a Chicago stage all year.   v

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