Vinegar Tom

Caryl Churchill’s 1976 play alternates between scenes of 17th-century witch hunts and songs of the present. It’s less a present of today, though, than one of second-wave feminism, where women’s empowerment is represented by folk-rock melodies and lyrics emphasizing the word “cunt.” The songs are connected thematically to the powerless women of 400 years earlier. Alice (Kristyn Bitner), having a brief affair with her neighbor, is informed early on that if she isn’t a wife or a virgin, she must be a whore. Her mother Joan (Michelle Flowers) is a widow and thus incapable of providing for herself. Susan (Melissa Fenwick) is unhappily, constantly pregnant. When the finger-pointing begins, none are safe from the damning accusations of witchcraft. Only Betty (Marta Kotzian), a young girl with an offer to marry a wealthy man, can protect herself. Churchill’s parallels are poignant, if not particularly eye-opening. Neither the extraordinary injustice of the witch trials nor the contemporary objectification of women will come as a revelation to the generally educated, liberal theatergoers of Seattle. So what’s in it for them? Vinegar Tom contains the most viscerally disturbing scene I’ve witnessed on stage, and the cast pulls it off with impressive conviction. BRENT ARONOWITZ 8 p.m. Thurs.-Sat., 2:30 p.m. Sun. Ends Nov. 15.

Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2:30 p.m. Starts: Nov. 6. Continues through Nov. 15, 2008

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