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Washington DC by Susan Berlin

The Witches of Eastwick

Also see Susan's reviews of Dead Man's Cell Phone and Hamlet

Witches of Eastwick
Emily Skinner, Marc Kudisch, Christiane Noll, and Jacquelyn Piro Donovan
The musical The Witches of Eastwick has taken seven years since its London premiere to arrive on a U.S. stage, and the gorgeously entertaining production now at Signature Theatre in Arlington, VA, proves that the show was worth the wait. Signature Artistic Director Eric Schaeffer, who also directed the London production, has reworked the material for a more intimate space, and he has brought in Broadway actors to give memorable and funny performances in the four lead roles.

Authors John Dempsey (book and lyrics) and Dana P. Rowe (music) adapted the musical from both John Updike's novel and the 1987 film adaptation. While Emily Skinner, Christiane Noll, and Jacquelyn Piro Donovan are all delightful as three outcast divorced women in Eastwick, R.I. respectively Alexandra, the plump blonde sculptor fascinated by images of women as fertility goddesses; Jane, the starchy, dark-haired teacher and amateur cellist; and Sukie, the redheaded local journalist and aspiring poet it's the wickedly appealing man they inadvertently summon up who dominates the action.

Marc Kudisch devours the stage and everything on it as Darryl Van Horne (Jack Nicholson's role in the movie), who arrives in Eastwick after the women share their desire for a perfect lover, "handsome as the devil but perfectly divine." They don't know how prophetic those words will be, as Kudisch appears with his gray goatee and red open-necked shirt, inhaling the essence of the women he meets and inciting the townspeople to join him in a hip-thrusting dance. (Choreographer Karma Camp gets a chance to show off in this production, as Darryl's seductions of the three women incorporate some erotic and borderline acrobatic movement. And then there's the number in which a group of women in black vinyl fetish gear takes over the town diner ...)

Karlah Hamilton does as well as she can as Darryl's enemy, the sort of self-righteous town leader whose unpleasant personality hides the fact that she's right about a lot of things, and Harry A. Winter gives a sweet characterization of her dominated husband. The other standout is Scott J. Strasbaugh in a riotous, nearly wordless performance as Darryl's butler.

Because the four main characters are so intensely drawn and acted, the secondary romantic couple fades into oblivion. Erin Driscoll, as Hamilton's daughter, does get a chance to show off what she can do, but James Gardiner gets lost as her boyfriend, who happens to be Skinner's character's son.

Walt Spangler's scenic design and Chris Lee's lighting design play up the supernatural aspects of this small town: an enormous moon hovers above the stage, surrounded by floating fence pickets and surprisingly solid cloud formations; flashes of lightning and the sky turning red are frequent occurrences. Alejo Vietti has designed amusing costumes that delineate the lost-in-time feeling of Eastwick, as well as the color-coded liberation of Alex, Jane, and Sukie.

Signature Theatre
The Witches of Eastwick
June 5th July 15th
Book and lyrics by John Dempsey
Music by Dana P. Rowe
Based on the novel by John Updike and the Warner Bros. motion picture
Darryl Van Horne: Marc Kudisch
Alexandra Spofford: Emily Skinner
Jane Smart: Christiane Noll
Sukie Rougemont: Jacquelyn Piro Donovan
Felicia Gabriel: Karlah Hamilton
Clyde Gabriel: Harry A. Winter
Michael Spofford: James Gardiner
Jennifer Gabriel: Erin Driscoll
Rebecca Barnes: Brianne Cobuzzi
Toby Bergman: Matt Conner
Fidel: Scott J. Strasbaugh
Little Girl: Brittany O'Grady
Gina Marino: Tammy Roberts
Joe Marino: David Covington
Greta Neff: Amy McWilliams
Raymond Neff: Jeremy Benton
Frank Ogden: Diego Prieto
Brenda Parsley: Sherri L. Edelen
Ed Parsley: Thomas Adrian Simpson
Marge Perley: Ilona Dulaski
Directed by Eric Schaeffer
Choreography by Karma Camp
Music direction by Jon Kalbfleisch
2800 S. Stafford St.
Arlington, VA 22206
Ticket Information: 703-820-9771 or 1-800-955-5566 or www.signature-theatre.org


-- Susan Berlin


Also see the Current Theatre Season Calendar for D.C.



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