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a Drama
by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa

COMPANY : Aurora Theatre [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Aurora Theatre [WEBSITE]
ID# 5135

SHOWING : September 21, 2017 - October 15, 2017



Ten years after the Salem witch trials, the notorious young accuser Abigail Williams seeks salvation in Boston, only to find her new life haunted by terrors of the past. She’ll face the plague, pirates, the devil, and worse in this eerie sequel to the American classic, "The Crucible." For Abigail, forgiveness is everything — but it may come at an unthinkable price.

Director Justin Anderson
Older Man Peter Hardy
Young Man Lee Osorio
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The Devil Made Me Do It
by playgoer
Monday, September 25, 2017
One of the oldest trends in theatrical production is to give audiences what they’ve experienced before, only translated to dramatic form. The ancient Greeks did it with their myths, turned into plays by Sophocles, Euripides, and others. Medieval Europe did it with Bible stories. Shakespeare and his contemporaries did it with historical narratives. In the nineteenth century, popular novels became popular theatre pieces that could run for years on tour. More recently, we’ve seen popular plays musicalized, movies turned into Broadway shows, and now popular plays used as grounds for imagined sequels. Take as evidence Bruce Norris’ "Clybourne Park," derived from Lorraine Hansberry’s "A Raisin in the Sun" (which had already experienced musicalization in 1973’s Tony-winning "Raisin"); Lucas Hnath’s "A Doll’s House, Part 2," derived from Henrik Ibsen’s "A Doll’s House" (which had already received a musicalized sequel in 1982’s flop Comden & Green musical "A Doll’s Life"); and now Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa’s "Abigail/1702," focusing on events following the conclusion of Arthur Miller’s "The Crucible."

The program lists characters only by gender and age -- Young Woman (Diany Rodriguez), Young Man (Lee Osorio), Older Woman (Olivia D. Dawson), Older Man (Peter Hardy), and Little Boy (Joshua Pagan). This is a bit disingenuous of the playwright, even though some aliases are used and some players take on a limited number of multiple parts. We know almost from the start that the Young Woman is Abigail Williams from "The Crucible" (and history), wracked with guilt from her role in condemning 20 innocent people to death for witchcraft. She seeks a path to redemption by running a pox house and leading a virtuous life. We see her interacting primarily with a smallpox-afflicted seaman she nurses back to health (the Young Man) and the Little Boy who is housed in an orphanage. Flashbacks introduce additional characters that help flesh out her history following the Salem witch trials of 1692.

The Aurora stage features another massive set from Isabel and Moriah Curley-Clay. The central section contains a revolving stage that shows a wattle of twigs at the start, but later revolves to show the interior of the pox house dwelling. Vegetation surrounds this revolving stage -- a tiny garden down right, a forest location down left, and leafless trees upstage along ramps that lead uphill from either side of the stage. There’s also a massive fake tree just right of center with limbs crudely covered in fabric, as if to allow flexibility as the branches move. They don’t. It’s just an ugly tree.

Ben Rawson’s lighting design goes for dimness in the spookier sections, adding backlighting of the cyclorama for shadow effects and letting light seep upward from the floor of the pox house. There’s a lovely moon projection too. Marc Gwinn’s sound design goes in for aural effects that mirror the lighting effects. Cathleen O’Neal’s costumes seem period-appropriate (although featuring white elements works against character movement in the dark, which happens fairly frequently). Kathryn Muse’s props add to the period feel and include appropriately ooky leeches.

Galen Crawley seems to have gotten a workout as dialect coach. All the characters seem to have slightly different accents, although none of the New England characters speak with accents reminiscent of modern-day New England accents. Dialectically, it all seems to be a bit of a grab bag.

Performances are good throughout. The plot comes through clearly, and Ms. Rodriguez shows real emotion as she goes through the agony of her struggles. The true standout, though, is Olivia D. Dawson as three very different women, all of whom are characterized by specific traits and speech patterns and emotional truth.

"Abigail/1702" is advertised as being a 90-minute, intermissionless show, but things really start popping after the hour-and-a-half mark. There are a number of revelations that cause reexamination of previous events or put them in a new perspective. There’s also a foray into the supernatural that raises the stakes higher and higher as Abigail seeks forgiveness while simultaneously facing her fate. Justin Anderson has done a creditable job in directing this show, but hasn’t created a production that truly transfixes and amazes. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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