This fourth installment, entitled “Witch,” in the Falls Church-based Creative Cauldron’s “Bold New Works for Intimate Stages” project that began its run last weekend is bold, is new and is creative to the max. It is a very edifying production in the purest spirit of the feminist mystique, doing justice to the rise of that spirit in reaction to the 2016 presidential election outcome and the millions who marched the day after the presidential inauguration across the country, many of whom have been marching ever since.
In fact, the production’s creative team principals and co-directors, Matt Conner and Stephen Gregory, set as the backdrop for the production that January 2017 Women’s March on Washington, when it was so crowded on the National Mall that no one could even move.
In that context, Conner and Gregory introduce us to six witches and their stories: Witches, that is, being women proudly rebelling against the male chauvinist brutalities of their days and made to suffer as a result. They are manifested in this beautiful and original musical as precursors to the day that is coming, though not here yet, of full equality and respect for all women in our culture.
Mary Webster, Moll Dyer, Margaret Hamilton, Joan of Arc, Rebecca Nurse and The Witch Gambaga in Ghana are the women profiled in this production, each with a story that the audience should read in the program beforehand so the many references to their lives contained in their lyrical songs are fully appreciated. They are channeled through the amazingly talented cast headlined by Iyona Blake as Destiny, winner of a Helen Hayes Award for her lead role in the Cauldron’s production of Tony Kushner’s “Caroline or Change,” and nominated for another for her work as Billie Holiday in the Cauldron’s “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill” this February.
Other talents in the cast include Samaria Dellorso as Mary, Susan Derry as Maggie, Florence Lacey as Becky, Sophia Manicone and Fiona, Catherine Purcell as Molly, and Arianna Vargas as Marie.
In addition to this show’s connection to the new #MeToo and other expressions of the meritorious revival of what might be called a new human sensibilities movement, tying in with the youth-led anti-gun momentum and teachers taking to the streets to demand attention to the needs of providing a decent education for the nation’s young, this play also touches the heart of what Creative Cauldron itself, Falls Church’s 17 year project of the “Nevertheless, She Persisted” founder and director Laura Connors Hull has done.
As she wrote in her program notes to “Witch,” “Seventeen years ago when I was looking for a name for our organization that would reflect a more collaborative, less hierarchical approach to creating theatrical work, I channeled the name Creative Cauldron. The symbol of the cauldron perfectly embodied this artistic idea, and as an added benefit, I learned that the cauldron is an ancient symbol of the divine feminine. How perfect then that this new musical work that explores the power of the feminine spirit should get its birth at Creative Cauldron.”
I do not exaggerate saying this is a production not to be missed. It is a soul-swelling tribute to the human spirit and I predict it will be repeated in much bigger venues in the coming period. You will want to say, “I knew it when….”
The production runs through May 6 with shows Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights at 8 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Creative Cauldron is located at 410 S. Maple Street in Falls Church.