Whistler in the Dark brings new life to a 1970s play with ‘Vinegar Tom’

That witch does not kill us: The women of Whistler in the Dark get down to business in "Vinegar Tom."

Though it’s set in the 17th century, a few cosmetic changes could easily turn “Vinegar Tom” into a 1970s-style treatise on the subjugation of women.

Despite a script that makes points with the subtlety of a sledgehammer and dated attempts at jarring the audience with an occasional C-word, Whistler in the Dark has created a compelling piece of theater.

Much of the credit for the success of this production goes to the talented actors who give this “play about witches with no witches in it” its humanity.

Becca Lewis imbues a promiscuous, single mother with the right amount of likability and devil-may-care attitude. Though Karin Webb delivers a solid performance as her mother, she’s too young for the part. Caroline Price and John Greene are flawless as her despicable neighbors.

Playwright Caryl Churchill’s lyrics are set to music that feels more like filler to hammer home an agenda than anything that serves the plot. It’s quirky and somewhat amusing, but
really adds little more than time to a production that needs to be 20 minutes shorter.

Director Mac Young works wonders with his actors but doesn’t make the best use of the space. While visually interesting, his lone set piece, a wooden frame of a house, is so large it leaves little room for the actors to perform scenes outside of the structure. The careening necks of the audience clearly demonstrate the need to move the actors into better sightlines.

Shortcomings aside, “Vinegar Tom” is an impressive effort by one of the area’s finest small theater companies. 

Plot points

“Vinegar Tom” is a 17th-century tale of a small town being taken over by the evil forces of witches. Or are they just women being condemned to death for being women?

‘Vinegar Tom’
Through Feb. 2
BCA Calderwood Pavilion
539 Tremont St., Boston
$15-$30, 617-933-8600
www.whistlerinthedark.org


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