May 09--Outside, it's spring.
But inside City Theatre, the South Side-based troupe is offering a drama worthy of a dark and chilly Halloween.
Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa's "Abigail 1702" is a dramatic thriller about possession and redemption that serves as a possible sequel to Arthur Miller's "The Crucible."
Aguirre-Sacasa takes up the story of Abigail Williams, a decade after she danced with the devil and accused her Salem, Mass., neighbors of witchcraft and conjuring to further her pursuit of John Proctor.
"The Crucible" ended with many of the townspeople dying on the gallows and Williams fleeing in the night.
"Abigail 1702" finds her living in Boston with a new name and a profession, hiding from her past as well as demons that could be actual as well as psychological.
"When I was a kid and first read "The Crucible" I was always disappointed when people would tell me it was a metaphor for McCarthyism or that there was no devil," Aguirre-Sacasa says. "It's so much more forbidding if the devil were in existence."
The 2007 production of "The Crucible" at Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago and Miller's historical note that said little was known about Williams beyond suggestions that she went to Boston and became a harlot were enough to inspire Aguirre-Sacasa to imagine Williams' future.
"I'm interested in stories about redemption. How would a character responsible for the deaths of 20 to 30 people set about redeeming herself?" he says. "The character is so reviled in history and literature. The idea of trying to tell a story where that character's psychology is explained was intriguing."
Aguirre-Sacasa is a writer who is both prolific and eclectic, says City Theatre artistic director Tracy Brigden, a long-time follower of his career.
Aguirre-Sacasa has written plays that include "The Muckle Man," which City Theatre produced in 2007. He also co-wrote the book for the Broadway musical "Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark," and he wrote the script for the musical "American Psycho" that will debut in London in December and the film remake of "Carrie" that's due out in October.
Others know him as a writer and co-producer of the TV series "Glee" and "Big Love" or in his other career as the writer of Marvel comic book miniseries such as "The Stand: American Nightmares" and "The Stand: Hard cases" and one-shots that include "Avengers Origins: Ant Man and the Wasp."
"I've always been attracted to his interest in archetypal myth and scary storytelling," Brigden says. "He's one of the few writers I know who write psycho-thrillers for the stage."
Brigden, who is directing the production, likes that Aguirre-Sacasa went beyond Miller's iconic story to include images, ideas and fear that were and are part of the legacy of our country's Puritan heritage, such as are you fated to go to Hell or can you change it?
"The idea of the devil walking the Earth is terrifying. The idea that the man you sat across from in the tavern is the devil filling your head with ideas is scary," Brigden says. "You could interpret it that it's the devil within, as opposed to your own fear, guilt and self-loathing making life a living Hell."
But, Brigden adds: "What's great about the play is that it's told in the way that a real man comes onto the stage and he is the devil."
The production also presents Brigden with challenges of technical complexities that include special effects and a brand-new score that mingles music and sounds from nature.
"It's like directing a classical piece of theater. It's big language, big emotions, complex storytelling," Brigden says. "It's pretty epic."
Alice T. Carter is the theater critic for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7808 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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