” No, my dear, don’t be alarmed. It’s just a little game. You won’t be harmed. And even if you are, I know some tricks to reattach a severed finger, fix a foot that’s lost a toe or two . . . or three. I’m teasing you. But after all, ask me, who really needs ten fingers, all those toes? If we were talking . . . oh, let’s say—a nose. Now you lose that, okay, I’d understand if you thought things had gotten out of hand. It’s not like we got extra ones to spare the way we do with eyes and ears. A pair of anything, you can afford to lose the first when there’s a second still to use. A nose, though, there’s not much to take its place, at least not sitting there, the middle of your face. So yeah, I might be slow to sympathize with someone lost just one of his two eyes. It comes to noses, though, there ain’t no “just.” You lose your nose and make a little fuss, well, that’s to be expected, I suppose, seeing you lost your one and only nose. But these shenanigans about a toe or two—you still got eight, nine others, though. So what you say we play our little game and let’s not worry who we gonna blame things go wrong and don’t turn out so good? Mean the world to me, it really would.”
This strange bit of poetry about missing body parts is recited early in the wickedly funny play now on stage at the New Jersey Rep in Long Branch by a marvelous actress Andrea Gallo. The word ‘wickedly’ is properly applied to this world premiere play with the simple title Broomstick.
Written by John Biguenet, Broomstick is the sometimes creepy and sometimes funny visit with on old lady (Andrea Gallo) who lives alone in a remote, crude, cabin in the woods. No it is not Grimm’s Hansel and Gretel, but close. The old lady is clearly strange and seems to have extraordinary powers. She can have bugs of all types, for example, torment whomever she is displeased with at a moments notice.
She has many other unique powers that are far more aggressive, but not to be revealed here. Let’s call her by the title she seems to have earned….Witch. But, not all witches are the same…is our witch a good or bad witch? Or both? As she spins her tale of life in the woods from childhood, early romance, racial violence, death of her parents, “suicide” of a romantic rival and young visitors who are fleeing abusive parents… we see both sides of her. We cry with her at one point and cringe at another.
Playing the witch is Andrea Gallo in a terrific solo performance that you will not soon forget. Gallo speaks in rhyme with an easy, sweet “couldn’t hurt a fly” mountain drawl. She wears a long black dress (suitable for broom riding?) with dark grey curly hair (costume designer Patricia Doherty). Her cabin is crude with a large cauldron in the large fireplace.
The set by Jessica Parks is astonishing— the engineering magician’s at Disney World could not have done better. The room has a stone floor, rough hewn logs with spaces covering the walls that are faced with numerous shelves loaded with a great assortment of glassware and strange instruments and bottles clearly standard issue for a card carrying witch. At the center, a self-propelled rocking chair. The lighting consists of various candle fixtures (magically powered by electricity) and mirrors that change color and intensity at a simple nod from the old lady (lighting designer Jill Nagle). Highly effective creepy and creaky sounds are nicely provided by sound designer Merek Royce Press.
A favorite moment is when the witch laments that her girlhood friend, and rival for her boyfriend, sadly committed suicide. “Naturally, she might have needed some help….like a push…..or two” the witch reveals with a coy, innocent smile.
This is goose-bump entertainment, minus movie style violence, at its best. We greatly recommend a journey to Long Branch to the NJ Rep’s very comfortable, intimate theatre and sit a “spell.” Keep your eyes on the witch during the closing moment’s as she reveals another, more than hair raising, talent.
Major applause for Andrea Gallo is naturally in order, of course, who would dare not show appreciation to a witch? Applause, of the standing variety, also to the director SuzAnne Barabas, the NJ Rep’s artistic director.
Reviewed by Rick Busciglio September 30, 2013
Tickets are $40; Discounts are available for seniors, students, and groups of 10 or more. For tickets, contact the NJ Rep Box Office at 732-229-3166 or visit on the web at www.njrep.org
NJ Rep is a year-round, professional, non-profit theater located at 179 Broadway in Long Branch only minutes from the Jersey Shore. Free on-site parking is available and there is easy access from NJ Transit (North Jersey Coast Line) and Academy Buses.
ABOUT THE CONTINUED LIFE OF NEW PLAYS FUND
NNPN’s flagship program, the Continued Life of New Plays Fund supports three or more theaters which choose to mount the same new play within a twelve-month period. The result is a Rolling World Premiere through which the playwright develops a new work with multiple creative teams, for multiple communities of patrons, ensuring the resulting play is of the highest possible quality. And with a minimum of three productions in a single year, the play attains the momentum it needs to join the repertoire of frequently-produced new American works. NNPN provides grants of $7,000 to the first three participating theaters in each Rolling World Premiere; to date, NNPN has championed the continued life of 40 new plays in over 100 productions, with over a quarter-million dollars in grants.
“The New Jersey Repertory Company was founded in 1997. Its mission is to develop and produce new plays and to make a lasting contribution to the American stage. Since it opened its doors 16 years ago, the theater has produced 70 world premieres and has presented over 350 developmental readings of new works.”