Performing Arts: Theater
July 22, 2015
Fierce seductive women litter cultural histories, and in The Potomac Theater Project’s double header presentation of “Vinegar Tom” and “Judith” at Atlantic Stage 2, women challenge conventional social mores.

Whenever crops don’t grow or children are born maimed, men look to women. Not kindly, but as the bearers of evil. And even though Caryl Churchill’s “Vinegar Tom” draws from an old 15th century German treatise on witches (women’s evil essence), the story is familiar.

At one time, American women were routinely burned at the stake for being the instrument of the devil. Similarly, medieval Germany did not trust the fairer, physically and morally much weaker sex.

In this case, a man’s sexual performance is compromised and the only person, who can assist, is the voluptuously plucky Tara Giordano. Protective of her somewhat demented mother (Nesba Crensahw) who goes around begging, Giordano represents an independent thinker. But women who find routes devoid of male sanction are to be feared. Directed by Cheryl Faraone, the bare-bones production is gamely performed by a cast outfitted in earth-brown peasant-ware by Annie Ulrich.

In the evening’s opening piece, the beautiful and brilliant Judith (Pamela J. Gray) sacrifices herself to the destruction of the Assyrian general Holofernes (Alex Draper). Words fight for air in Howard Baker’s “Judith: A Parting From The Body” ably directed by Richard Romagnoli. We hear what sounds like a running mental monologue spouted by Judith as she determines the best way to breach the general’s confidence.

Many paintings attest to the famous biblical story strring Judith beheading the famous general. On the eve of a great battle Judith is called the general’s tent. He desires her. Emboldened by the idea of killing him so he can't lay waste to her city, Judith gladly sacrifices her body to sexual pleasure. Afterall, he’s an attractive man, and she’s a widow with few options available to satisfy feelings of sexual longing.

Curling her long body around the general’s feet, Judith serenades him much like Scheherazade. A potent mix of alcohol, beauty and brilliance disarms him.

On some level, it’s a realistic portrait of two, proud warriors.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

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