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A CurtainUp New Jersey Review
"Misunderstood-it's always been the same: when things go wrong, it's me they gonna blame." — Witch
Andrea Gallo
When Glinda, the witch of the north asks Dorothy (in The Wizard of Oz) "Are you a good witch or a bad witch," Dorothy takes umbrage: "I'm not a witch at all. I'm Dorothy Gale from Kansas." Just as Glinda accepts Dorothy's answer in good faith, it might also be a good idea to see the Witch in John Biguenet's play Broomstick as both a good witch and a bad witch.

What we see at first is woman with a rather pretty face of indeterminate age with curly grey hair adorned with beads. Dressed in a long black peasant dress, she cautiously comes down the stairs in the cabin in the woods when she hears someone she thinks may be an intruder. Estranged from the community in Appalachia, she lives alone. She addresses us (the audience), "I hear you in the darkness there. That smell of yours, I'd know it anywhere."

She admits to us that her eyes are not what they used to be, but we can certainly be impressed by what we can see: the glowing embers in the fireplace wherein a cauldron hangs; a table and shelves stocked with bottles of all sizes and descriptions; a rocking chair on the stone floor that rocks without anyone in it; a mirror that changes colors; burning candles that periodically grow dim and then mysteriously get bright throughout the cabin, parts of which look as if carved from the trunk of a large tree, and the encroaching ivy that has grown through the spaces between the logs. We'll give the first shout out to designers Jessica Parks (setting) and Jill Nagle (lighting) who deliver the stunning atmospherics.

We are the voiceless intruder or perhaps the expected visitor who has presumably come back to a place from our past, to see, perhaps confront, a person who surely knows and remembers. We listen as the Witch (Andrea Gallo) slowly makes us feel both unsettled and comfortable if there is such a thing. She speak (in rhyme no less) of why we might be there and why she might be compelled to tell us what we want to hear or need to know in this crafty one-person play about witchery, revenge and love.

The Halloween season is prematurely in the air with this charming and chilling play about a Witch with stories to tell, secrets to reveal and spells to cast over the listener. A native of New Orleans and author of several books, award-winning short stories and plays, Biguenet has written a play in verse that will make you shiver as well as smile.

Whether you venture alone or are accompanied, your time will be well spent listening to the confessions of an old crone. Whether or not you believe her when she professes to be both a protector of good little children who have run away from bad parents, you will certainly take her at her word and from her works that she is as much an unremorseful and unremitting purveyor of spells and sorcery as she is a victim of backwoods ignorance and pervasive superstitions. I was surprised at my own ability to feel the goose-bumps on my arms even when provoked to giggle.

Splendidly directed by SuzAnne Barabas, Broomstick consists entirely of the Witch's poetic narrative, a series of eerie tales enhanced with marvelous special effects. Without cackling pretensions, Gallo is terrific as a rather poignantly defined character who doesn't want sympathy only compassion. She may be corrupted but she has learned how to rise above her circumstances and circumvent the worst reality by embracing the supernatural. Without wanting to be a spoiler, let's say that the ability to rise above is something that any good witch worth her salt can do.

To Gallo's credit, she is mesmerizing, especially given the poetic nature of the text and her soft mountain drawl. But rapt you will be by her story-telling: the remorse in the loss of a young lover, her attempts to save and protect misunderstood/mistreated children, the death of a cruel parent are but some of the stories that are told in the flickering light of memory and myth. Broomstick, the winner of a 2013 National New Play Network Continued Life of New Plays Fund Award will go on after its premiere at New Jersey Rep to productions at Playwrights Theatre of New Jersey, Southern Repertory, and Montana Repertory Theater.

By John Biguenet
Directed by Suzanne Barabas

Cast: Andrea Gallo (Witch)
Scenic Design & Properties: Jessica Parks
Lighting Design: Jill Nagle
Sound Design: Merek Royce Press
Costume Design: Patricia E. Doherty
Running time: 1 hour 30 minutes no intermission
New Jersey Repertory Company, 179 Broadway, Long Branch, NJ
(732) 229 - 3166
Tickets: $40.00
Performances: Thursdays, Fridays at 8 pm; Saturdays at 3 pm and 8 pm and Sundays at 2 pm.
From 09/19/13 Opened 09/21/13 Ends 10/13/13
Review by Simon Saltzman based on performance 09/21/13
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Broomstick - crafty one-person play about witchery, revenge and love. Read More