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SAN DIEGO
Regional Reviews by Bill Eadie

A Discourse on The Wonders of the Invisible World
Moxie Theatre


Jorge Rodriguez, Jo Anne Glover and, below, Olivia Hicks
Liz Duffy Adams' new play could have been titled The Crucible II, as it imagines what happened to two of the historical characters from the Salem witch trials (who also appear in the Arthur Miller play). Instead, her title references a tome by the famous Puritan minister, Reverend Cotton Mather. In his book "The Wonders of the Invisible World: Being an Account of the Trials of Several Witches Lately Executed in New England and of Several Remarkable Curiosities Therein Occurring," Mather defended the witch trials and asserted that witches were still among the populace doing the Devil's work. Ms. Adams' play illustrates how blind faith continues to lead its followers astray.

Abigail Williams (Jo Anne Glover), the chief accuser of the Salem witches, pays a call on Mercy Lewis (Wendy Waddell), her fellow accuser, ten years later. Abigail had disappeared before the end of the trials, and she tells Mercy that she has traveled extensively and has now decided to depart for London on a ship that is sailing the next day. Mercy operates a tavern in a more remote area, and she's moved there to get away from the aftermath of the trials. Mercy is plain-spoken, and she makes it clear that she is not glad to see Abigail.

Abigail seeks some resolution to the sweep of events that happened when she was only twelve (the Miller play puts her age at 17 for dramatic purposes). She acknowledges that she's seen a lot of life in her travels, and even though she knows that the territorial governor eventually freed all of those accused of witchcraft who weren't executed, she's looking for reasons why the hullabaloo happened in the first place.

Mercy isn't of a mind to give her much satisfaction. She's angry with the governor's actions, which, she feels, were not warranted and made everyone unsafe, especially since the French and Indian Wars were starting up again. Her tavern customers still very much believed in witches, and in fact, her twelve-year-old serving girl, Rebekkah (Olivia Hicks), enthralls them with a tale of witches, drawn from Shakespeare's Macbeth.

The customers have their own agendas as well. Judah (Christopher Murphy) is a young, not-too-bright farmer who has taken a shine to Rebekkah, while the Reverend Peck (Nick Young) takes in his own glory as the self-ordained town pastor—and also magistrate—who is ready and willing to execute his own version of religious jurisprudence.

In fact, Abigail finds herself not only unwelcome but questioned sharply about her years spent traveling from one big city to another. Things are starting to get out of hand when into the tavern walks the image of Satan himself (Jorge Rodriguez).

Or is the man in the long black coat and tall black hat merely not dressed like the others (Jennifer Brawn Gittings designed the excellent period costumes)? Who is the outsider and who is the insider? The remainder of the play explores this question, with results that both disturb and emotionally satisfy.

Moxie artistic director Delicia Turner Sonnenberg consistently coaches excellent performances from actors with a variety of experience, and here she is working with a group that includes a real 12-year-old (Ms. Hicks) and one of the company co-founders (Ms. Glover). While each cast member delivers, it is a particular pleasure to watch Ms. Glover and Mr. Rodriguez. Crowded onto Robin Sanford Roberts' deliberately claustrophobic scenic design, Ms. Glover's thought process is clear as she takes in the nasty turn of events with which she is confronted. Mr. Rodriguez, on the other hand, knows that he is going to disrupt the scene he's entering, but he's not certain what the nature of the disruption will be. As he discovers that he's been assigned the role of the Devil, he becomes gleefully creative.

Ms. Adams' plotting twists and turns, mostly in predictable directions, and Macbeth is not her only appropriation from Shakespeare. In fact, her ending, which reaches for but doesn't quite achieve the needed emotional satisfaction, marks the play as a romance, as opposed to a history or a tragedy. But, by the end the necessary plot points have been made and perhaps if the audience departs a little restless, so much the better.

Moxie Theatre presents A Discourse on The Wonders of the Invisible World, by Liz Duffy Adams.

Performs Thursdays at 7pm; Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm; Sundays at 2pm, September 18 October 12, at 6663 El Cajon Blvd Suite N, San Diego, CA 92115. Tickets ($20 - $40) available by calling 858-598-7620 or by visiting www.moxietheatre.com.

Directed by Delicia Turner Sonnenberg, with Robin Sanford Roberts (Scenic Designer), Christopher Loren Renda (Lighting Design), Jennifer Brawn Gittings (Costume Designer), Emily Jankowski (Sound Design), Angelica Ynfante (Properties Master), Adam Lindsay (Technical Director).

The cast includes Jo Anne Glover (Abigail Williams), Olivia Hicks (Rebekkah), Christopher Murphy (Judah), Jorge Rodriguez (man in the tall black hat), Wendy Waddell (Mercy Lewis) and Nick Young (Reverend Peck).


Photo: Daren Scott

See the current season schedule for the San Diego area.

- Bill Eadie



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