By Ilaria Cutolo

WITCHLAND, a new play by Tim Mulligan, directed by Ken Wolf and presented by Manhattan Repertory is billed as an “immersive” production. It features haunted elements and tells the story of a non-traditional family consisting of two fathers, Van (Geoffrey Grady) and Jared (Dave Silberger), and their adopted black teenage daughter Ali (Mars Holscher) moving to a known nuclear waste site in eastern Washington.  Oh, and there’s a witch too.

Jared is offered a job in Richland, WA to work at Hanford Nuclear Facility which will triple his income.  The family very reluctantly agrees to move from their home in Seattle on this “2-year adventure”.  Across the street from their new home lives a real witch who leaves mysterious bundles of sticks in front of her house.  Neighbors and locals have been cursed by the witch and these sticks, and, soon, Van and Jared experience her evil possession.  Life goes from bad to worse for our protagonists.  Ali becomes the hero of the play who saves them all from the cackling witch’s possession by leading an anti-curse at a local “dead baby cemetery”.  The witch’s curses are broken, life goes back to normal and all is well.  Or is it…

The set is simple, and the actors utilize the center aisle as well as other parts of the small theater giving this a cozy right-in-your-living-room feel. The costumes of a crow character and the witch herself were done well and at times delivered the appropriate menace. The lighting, while attempting to set a frightening mood, flickered on and off more than felt necessary, and did not add much to the mood. At times there were too many actors on stage in too small of a space and appeared more cramped than cozy. There were moments of fun and a few chuckles throughout but all in all the acting felt stiff and amateurish and the dialogue stilted. It was an earnest attempt at a campy production, and I would give it high marks if it were a high school play, but this is a production in New York City at the Chain Theater so, therefore, I can’t be as forgiving. That said, this is a family-friendly play. My 12-year-old daughter said she had a good time and we liked the creative use of the program as part of the show- appearing on our seats all tattered and slightly crumpled, more like a town newsletter, was a nice touch.

 

CAST: Chelsea Clark, Ben Wambeke, Nina Randazzo, Nathan Cusson, Geoffrey Grady, Mars Holscher, Dave Silberger,Theresa Della Valle, Danny McWilliams. 

Tim Mulligan (Playwright), Charli Rose Burkhardt (Scenic Designer), Kate Murphy (Production Assistant and Props), and Ken Wolf (Director, Sound and Light).

WITCHLAND, playing now at the Chain Theater through April 14th. (312 W 36th Street, 3rd Fl.). Opens Friday, April 5th at Chain Theater (312 W. 36th Street, 3rd Floor between 8th and 9th Avenues). The play schedule is as follows: Opening night, Fri. April 5th at 7 PM, Sat. April 6th at 2 PM and 7 PM, Sun. April 7th at 3 PM, Wed. April 10th at 7 PM, Thur. April 11th at 7 PM, Fri. April 12th at 7 PM, Sat. April 13th at 3 PM & 7 PM and Sun. April 14th at 3 PM. Tickets are $40. For Tickets go to witchlandplay.com.