Los Angeles Theater Review: BROOMSTICK (Fountain)

by Paul Birchall on October 22, 2014

in Theater-Los Angeles

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STAY FOR DINNER, WON’T YOU?

She’s an ancient crone who lives in a tiny cottage deep in the forest, feared by those near and far.  She brews strange elixirs and ointments, and is rumored to have turned little boys into piglets to feed on during her midnight feasts.  Her rivals end up drowned in the bottom of wells, and those who cheat her suffer the agonies of bug bites and infertile chickens.

Jenny O’Hara stars in BROOMSTICK at the Fountain Theatre. Photo by Ed Krieger.

The question of the night:  Is she a witch?  Maybe, maybe not; perhaps she’s just a poor ole woman who has been misunderstood by everyone around her.  On the other hand, she might just be the wickedest ole coot on the block, and you’d be wise not to stay at her place for dinner lest you be the main course.

Playwright John Biguenet’s delightful Halloween Season monologue is a flat out delight. It’s like a children’s fairy story brought to delicious, moody life by Jenny O’Hara’s exceptionally funny, yet wise and creepy performance. O’Hara is so deft and multi-faceted that you won’t be absolutely certain whether you’re in the presence of self justifyin’ witchery or of your sweet-natured granny.  “Have an apple, dearie,” indeed!

Jenny O’Hara stars in BROOMSTICK at the Fountain Theatre. Photo by Ed Krieger.

Between you and me, though – and I am sure it doesn’t really come as a spoiler – of course the old gal is a witch.  Well, I say so in any case, even at the risk of being turned into a newt.  I mean, otherwise, what’s the point of doing a show about her on Halloween?  But director Stephen Sachs’s witchy comedy is such magical fun, you almost find yourself coming down on either side of the mystery.

Popular films and plays such as Wicked and Maleficent have made great capitol from telling famous stories from the point of view of the supposedly diabolical villains.  Here, we get a wicked witch’s apologia and justification for her supposedly dreadful deeds.  We say supposedly because, of course, as she sees it, she hasn’t done a single thing wrong.

Jenny O’Hara stars in BROOMSTICK at the Fountain Theatre. Photo by Ed Krieger.

The Witch welcomes an old friend into her home, regaling her with cheerful greetings and kindly small talk on Andrew Hammer’s gorgeously decorated storybook cottage, which is so lovely that you really want to sneak onto the set after the show to explore every cobwebbed nook and sparkling cranny.

However, the old woman’s narrative gradually drifts into the realm of her own memories, and we begin to suspect that there’s no visitor:  It’s just the Witch talking to herself as she seeks to justify many of the wicked things she’s done.  Indeed, to hear her tell it, even as she cackles with mad laughter and jokingly threatens to turn her visitor into a piglet, she could have had a normal life – if only things had turned out differently.

Jenny O’Hara stars in BROOMSTICK at the Fountain Theatre. Photo by Ed Krieger.

O’Hara’s turn as the Witch is beguiling and playful – simultaneously rather horrifying – with decidedly rich multi-dimensional layering.  If it’s possible to “get” a fairy tale character like this, we understand how she gradually turned “evil” as a result of a series of bitter life turns and horrors.  As a girl, the Witch learned her dad was cheating on her mother with a town beauty – so much the worse for the ill-fated beauty.  When her one true love perished at sea, the Witch’s rage and grief is so unstoppable she summons a storm that kills countless others.

Jenny O’Hara stars in BROOMSTICK at the Fountain Theatre. Photo by Ed Krieger.

Sachs’s staging shifts from intimate and rather sugary to being terrifying on a dime, as O’Hara crafts a forceful, vivid figure who can be a lovable old woman at one moment and a seemingly immortal avatar of horrifying supernatural power the next.  It’s hard to imagine a better show to see this Halloween Season, and you’ll only find yourself wishing that you could indeed be The Witch’s guest as dinner – I mean, for dinner.

Jenny O’Hara stars in BROOMSTICK at the Fountain Theatre. Photo by Ed Krieger.photos by Ed Krieger

Broomstick
Fountain Theatre, 5060 Fountain Ave.
Thurs – Sat at 8; Sun at 2
scheduled to end on November 30, 2014
EXTENDED to December 14, 2014
for tickets, call (323) 663-1525 or visit www.fountaintheatre.com

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