Off-Broadway Review: MODERN WITCHES and BRAIN HEMINGWAY (Players Theatre)

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by Paola Bellu on May 7, 2024

in Theater-New York

Two five-star Edinburgh Festival Fringe shows are now at the Players Theatre and you don’t want to miss them. Modern Witches is a solo show written and performed by Katie Kopajtic – a queer writer and actor whose work spans theatre, film and digital publication – where witchcraft meets the great Virginia Woolf. Kopajtic plays a lesbian actor who uses witchcraft to cure her high anxiety caused by her impending wedding while struggling to create a self-taped video to audition for a role as the famous writer. We are in a New Age shop with scented candles and quartz, the perfect place to call upon the spirit of the Goat, as she refers to Woolf (it was the writer’s real nickname).

Kopajtic tells us about the complications of identity, dreams, and commitment with a sharp attitude and many hilarious sarcastic statements expressed in semi-serious manners, using mostly Woolf’s letters, memoirs, and her own conclusions. An excellent job as a playwright but her elegant performance could use better pacing; although she plays a fabulous Woolf, the rest of the acting is a bit rushed and some of the videos projected too long. A surprising, well-handled finale makes the journey worth it.

In Brain Hemingway, Erin Murray Quinlan – the playwright and composer who also plays herself on stage – is a blocked writer under a deadline to finish at least one song of her new musical to pitch to a producer who keeps calling her. Unfortunately, she is also harassed by the ghost and subject of her last theatrical flop, Ernest Hemingway, who does not want to leave her brain, and her internal dialogue describes the creative struggle.

Hemingway, played charmingly by Evan Quinlan, Erin’s husband who looks just like the writer, does his best to stop her from working; like a mischievous older brother he tells jokes, attacks her self-esteem, reminds her of her shortcomings, but when she seems overwhelmed and ready to give up, a new verse for her new song comes to mind and she keeps going. Directed by Paul BoydBrain Hemingway is an amusing meta play written and performed with a lot of heart and determination by Murray Quinlan that could easily develop into a longer musical play.

Modern Witches & Brain Hemingway
Tres Brujas Productions and Tawnydog Productions
Players Theatre, 115 MacDougal St
ends on May 19, 2024

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