Devil's in the Details, but 'Abigail' Rewards Patience

By Carter, Alice T | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, May 12, 2013 | Go to article overview

Devil's in the Details, but 'Abigail' Rewards Patience


Carter, Alice T, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


There's a chill in the air at City Theatre.

And that's not just because the thermostat seemed to be set unnaturally low when "Abigail 1702" opened at City Theatre on May 10.

According to Abigail, the play's title character, a heart- wrenching chill signals the presence of the Devil.

That's Devil with a capital D, because in Roberto Aguirre- Sacasa's drama, the Devil is not a metaphor for evil, but a very real and formidable being.

Abigail will be familiar to many as the pivotal character in Arthur Miller's play "The Crucible," which was set in Salem, Mass., in 1692. Miller's play was based on a real event -- a mass hysteria that had young girls confessing to literally dancing with the devil and accusing their fellow citizens of witchcraft. Motivated by her desire to re-ignite her affair with John Proctor, Abigail accused her former employer's wife Elizabeth of witchcraft.

That plan backfired when both John and Elizabeth were both sent to the gallows along with 17 others.

But by then, Abigail had disappeared. What became of her is more a matter of legend than fact.

You don't really need to know that story to follow Aguirre- Sacasa's play. But it does create a real-world context for the story.

We meet Aguirre-Sacasa's Abigail a decade after the Salem trial.

Now an herbalist on the outskirts of Boston, she has a reputation for successfully treating smallpox patients, such as the young sailor John Brown who arrives at her cottage. Like Abigail, Brown has a past and secrets, and more to atone for than we expect.

The unreeling of all this narrative slows the drama. …

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