The Witching Hour’s Bitch worth staying up for

When the French want to “shorten her,” we’re spared the head of Marie Antoinette rolling from the guillotine. But the Witching Hour’s original production, Bitch, doesn’t flinch when it comes to questioning four famous executions. Directed by Jennifer Pool, who co-wrote the one-hour play with Kirstin Kluver and Kathleen Lawler, Bitch boldly risks a fast-paced, highly-choreographed treatment of the French queen, Mata Hari, Mary Sarratt and Anne Askew. It could have provoked a count-the-times-they-die mockery as it jumped from one woman’s demise to another, including three Marie Antoinettes and two of the Dutch women who created the alleged spy Mata Hari. Instead, it quite improbably maintained a unity of style and movement, and rarely suffered from clarity. Credit the authors, especially director Pool, the costuming and the original music from the prolific Amanda Miller, plus believable performances. Maybe the Witching Hour has been performing such wonders in the Blue Barn’s Downtown Space all along. I haven’t attended their usual 11 p.m. starting times, but rushed to catch this 7:30 p.m. performance — the early start provided by a weekend off from the Barn’s sold-out Three Tall Women, due to the absence of Ruth Rath. In another unlikely accomplishment, the cast made all this work on the bedroom set for Edward Albee’s tall ones. Bitch included the second striking appearance in the same week by Ashley Spessard, particularly with Sara O’Neill as they presented Margaretha Zelle Macleod and her temple dancer, Mata Hari, as separate entities. Shannon Jaxies played the main Marie, but also wowed with a scene-stealing bit of comedy as Anna Sarratt, the lovestruck daughter of Mary Sarratt (Meganne Horrocks). Horrocks was also impressive, saddled with the only character whose execution was treated as somewhat justified, given her link to the assassination of President Lincoln. Perhaps the biggest challenge fell on Rachel Samson as Anne Askew, a Protestant burned at the stake. The character’s devout zeal was the sort often stereotyped, but Samson was convincing. The play continues at 11 p.m. in the Old Market this Friday and Saturday * I saw the long first act of Into the Woods at Creighton University, and that was enough to remind me that they’ve got both the voices to make any musical soar and the acoustics or amplification problems to swallow any of Stephen Sondheim’s lyrics. You had to love “Milky White,” the cow traded for magic beans by Jack of Beanstalk fame, and Rapunzel’s tower where she lets down her golden hair. It was constructed of the classic fairy tale books. Cold Cream looks at theater in the metro area. Email information to coldcream@thereader.com.

posted at 08:16 pm
on Friday, April 01st, 2011

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