Hollywood Fringe 2017
Woman turns to the occult to achieve familial independence.
In 1920s England, a spinster tries to break away from her needy family in this charming and satirical solo performance starring Lisa K. Wyatt and based on a novel by Sylvia Townsend Warner.
Wyatt plays Laura, who, after the death of her father, finds herself growing into her middle ages in the shadow of her brother’s family. After a lifetime of being a live-in aunt, restlessness overcomes “Aunt Lolly” and she decides to move to the country to get away from it all only to have her nephew follow her there. Rather than let him cramp her new independent lifestyle, she decides to put the matter into the hands of Satan. Lisa K Wyatt does a fantastic job as Laura, finding rich comedy as she turns from a benign, put-upon spinster into a devious practitioner of dark magic. Far from showy and always on point, Wyatt’s performance is the crown jewel of this production.
The smart adaptation by Kate Motzenbacker and Sal Nicolazzo, sometimes falls into the common trap of trying to retain the author’s original language as it was meant for the page and likely not for the stage, but nevertheless remains compelling and delightful. One wishes the many voice-overs portraying Laura’s family could have been played by live actors on stage with Wyatt leading the way (and maybe that could happen in an expanded version), but they are neither distracting nor taking away from Wyatt’s performance.
Motzenbacker directs a strong, airtight ship, even gracing the stage with the sort of quaint, provincial design work you might find in a Wes Anderson movie or a production of The Wind in the Willows, covering the stage with dried flowers and often presenting scenes over afternoon tea. Having never heard of the author Sylvia Townsend Warner before, this reviewer was certainly moved to look her up after seeing this show.
Running at about 40 minutes, Why We Become Witches is a plum choice for the high-brow fringe-goers who seek dramatic stakes without tragedy and comedy without buffoonery. I recommend this show. ZACHARY BERNSTEIN