NEW YORK – Witchland at the Chain Theatre.

Tonight’s theatric offering was billed as a play depicting the town of Richland, Washington, as “the most toxic place in the Western Hemisphere.” Here, as part of the Manhattan Project during World War II, the United States developed nuclear weapons, produced plutonium, and continued work in the late 1980s. It was no surprise to be greeted by theater ushers dressed in hazmat suits.

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Nina Randazzo and Mars Holscher. Photo by Jordan Schreiber

Plague Doctors

As the audience entered the intimate, 65-seat black box theater, anticipation filled the air as people chatted about the ushers and grim dark setting. Silently sitting on the stage was an individual wearing a grotesque bird-like mask reminiscent of 17th-century European plague doctors.

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Dave Silberger as Jared, and Geoffrey Grady as Van in a scene from Witchland. Photo credit Jordan Schreiber


Filling the space was the sound of a forest with wolves and ravens evoking resonances reminiscent of Edgar Allan Poe’s dreadful poetic horripilations. The purpose of the evening’s performance was yet a mystery. Still, clues ascertained by the initial sonic and visual images were undeniably captivating, offering a glimpse into a dark chapter of history.

Provocatively Entertaining

As the story unfolded, the audience sojourned in a world of horror and black comedy. The initial elements of fear, tension, and tragedy were liberally peppered with dark and light humor, creating a unique, provocatively entertaining experience that was baffling and unsettling. Was that a reference to Nurse Rached from the famed film One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest? Did someone say, “The baby cemetery was another Richland hot spot?”

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Nina Randazzo as Shannon and Theresa Della Valla as the Witch in a scene from Witchland. Photo credit Jordan Schreiber

Expert Timing

Moreover, tonight was not a gloomy chronicle or dreary vigil about superfund sites, nuclear waste, and Chernobyl. Bela Lugosi and Lon Chaney Jr. were not terrorizing the townspeople; instead, author Tim Mulligan created a virtual world haunted perhaps by the spirit of a comedy team like Abbott and Costello, who, through expert timing and slapstick humor engaged in physical comedy routines, hyperbolic movements, and witty comedic pratfalls as they encountered the Wolfman, Invisible Man, or Count Dracula.

Immersive, Intimate Theater

Witchland deftly wallowed in evil witches, curses, baby cemeteries, winsome teenagers, family life, heroes, and heroines set in a dark, mysterious landscape. It also delved into modern families, 21st-century social mores, and the broad diversity of big cities compared to sheltered villages. The show provided immersive, intimate theater as characters swished about, performing both from the stage and among the audience.

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L to R: Theresa Della Valle, Dave Silberger, Chelsea Clark. Photo by Jordan Schreiber

Comedic Chemistry

The show was fun and entertaining, with witty banter and rapid-fire dialogue that added to the humor of encounters with the witch and other mysterious forces. The audience chuckled at the constant quips and one-liners, quick wit, and comedic chemistry. These exchanges lightened the tension of horror elements while keeping the audience engaged and entertained. Anyone afraid of the evil witch (Theresa Della Valle) had to laugh when she madly cackled while brandishing a rolling pin and oven glove. She was, in a word, hilarious!

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L to R: Dave Silberger, Mars Holscher, Geoffrey Grady. Photo by Jordan Schreiber

See For Yourself

Inventive lighting, sets, and soundscape well-supported the story, apparitions, and action. The costuming was creative and suited to this 21st-century setting of a decades-old story about a hard-working American town. What forces ultimately prevail – evil or hope? You’ll have to come and see for yourself.

Witchland at the Chain Theatre

Presented by the Manhattan Repertory Theatre

By Tim Mulligan
Original musical by Steisha Ponczoch and Brandon Albu
Directed by Ken Wolf
Scenic Design by Charli Burkhardt
Sound and Light by Ken Wolf
PA and Props by Kate Murphy

Runtime: 80 minutes without intermission.
Click HERE for tickets.

Source: Opening Night

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