The Haunting “Sequel” of Abigail Williams at City Theatre

It is not often that I leave a cultural event with the phrase “that was epic” on my lips, but the City Theatre’s production of “Abigail/1702” made it happen. A vivid imagining of the escape and redemption of Abigail Williams – one of the chief accusers from the Salem witch trials – the play was absorbing and exhausting.

Photo by Abby Kraftowitz
Photo by Abby Kraftowitz

Abigail has fled to Boston under an assumed name and seeks redemption or to at least ward off the demons that continue to plague her by doing “good works.” The goodness she cultivates by healing and nurturing a child and an unrelated adult sailor ultimately force her to confront her own demons.

Is it a metaphor – the extension of the McCarthyism envisioned by Arthur Miller in “The Crucible?” Is it a horror story? Is it an examination of Puritanical beliefs about forgiveness, mercy and redemption? Does the devil walk this world?

In a gorgeous set skillfully creating a frenzied “Satanic” dance and the peaceful comfort of a healer soothing a tortured body, City Theatre brings all of these questions to the forefront in a somewhat dizzying array that threatens to overwhelm, but ultimately – pays off.

I was not in the least surprised to read that playwright Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa has worked on both “GLEE” and the forthcoming adaptation of “Carrie” – Abigail is the quintessential exploration of what happens after prom ends.

Diane Davis as Abigail is mesmerizing. But the devil …well, the devil steals the show. Almost.

Abigail/1702 closes the City Theatre’s 2012-2013 season, running through May 26, 2013.

Support your local arts by attending the May 20 Gala Event – “Let’s Rock This City” at Heinz Field.

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