Review: “Witch” at Geffen Playhouse

Evan Jonigkeit in Witch. Photo by Jeff Lorch.

Written by Jen Silverman (The Roommate) and expertly directed by Marti Lyons (Cambodian Rock Band), Witch is inspired by the 17th century play The Witch of Edmonton, written by Thomas Decker, William Rowley and John Ford. The Devil is our main character, but he doesn’t sport horns or talk about lakes of fire and eternal damnation. He does, however, make mention of regret, longing, and the secret desires we all have. Desires we’d sell our souls for.

Evan Jonigkeit, Maura Tierney in Witch. Photo by Jeff Lorch.

The play is set in 1621, but the vernacular is contemporary, and it’s a credit to Silverman that it hardly distracts. Evan Jonigkeit (Girls, X-Men) plays Scratch, the Devil, with a sharp sense of humor and slick charm. Golden Globe-winner, Maura Tierney (ER, The Affair) is marvelous as Elizabeth, a social pariah labeled a “Witch” by the villagers. She is the fiery pulse of this piece, her opening monologue setting the tone for what follows, and commands attention every moment she’s on stage, even when simply observing others silently.

Ruy Iskandar, Will Von Vogt in Witch. Photo by Jeff Lorch

Writer, Silverman turns the soul-bartering cliché on its head. She gives us, instead, an unexpectedly mesmerizing relationship between the Devil and Elizabeth who refuses to strike a deal, and consequently sets off a battle of wits with the Devil ending up infatuated with her. There’s also the story of “brothers,” Cuddy (Will Von Vogt) and Frank (Ruy Iskandar). While Cuddy, who is gay, is the biological son of the powerful Sir Arthur (Brian George), Frank is more or less adopted. Their rivalry is established from the outset when each commits their soul to the Devil in order to get rid of the other. But while they all go through a metamorphosis, the most fascinating journey is that of the Devil himself who is a given a chance, through his dealing with others, to reevaluate his own existence.

— Victor Riobo

Witch playing at Geffen Playhouse through September 29th. Tickets HERE.