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Mystery Meets Metaphysics and the Occult in “Widdershins” at The Little Theatre of Alexandria

Jordan Wright
March 7th, 2011
Special to The Alexandria Times

Emily Woods (Constance), Lars Klores (Mr. English), Elizabeth A. Keith (Mrs. English), and Elise Kolle (Felicity) Photo by Shane Canfield

Emily Woods (Constance), Lars Klores (Mr. English), Elizabeth A. Keith (Mrs. English), and Elise Kolle (Felicity) Photo by Shane Canfield


When a Welsh family of four vanishes into thin air from their cozy country manse, leaving no other clue save a slip of paper handwritten with the word “widdershins”, we find two detectives hot on the trail to solve the mystery.  In a complex and fascinatingly convoluted Victorian plot replete with Druids, faerie legends, French Impressionists and the occult, “Widdershins”, currently at The Little Theatre of Alexandria, connects these seemingly disparate elements with cohesive aplomb.

Underneath the quaint façade of this turn of the century upper crust family there are darker sides to each member that Inspector Ruffing, and his tippling cohort, McGonigle, aim to uncover.  Between pours of the family’s finest scotch, McGonigle attempts to wrest the truth from a series of interviews with the family’s only remaining daughter, Annie, their lame servant girl, Jenny, and Betty, the village sorceress.

Mr. English, as the patriarch of the family, is a man in full who fancies himself a painter, writer and intellectual.  Yet he is a dilettante holding his family firmly in his thrall.  In a self-absorbed metaphysical quest – “To find the truth one must travel deeper and deeper into the abyss,” he declares – he dabbles dangerously in superstitions and Pagan legends.  With the aid of a daft local seer and herbalist with a penchant for young boys, he is lured into the places where the “lost ones” dwell, as she goads him on to visit the spirits that have haunted him in his hallucinations.

“The sacred and the damned are the same,” English declares in a delusional dualist attempt to define God.  With such a cavalier philosophy it should come as no surprise that he absolves himself of any responsibility towards his family, and we soon discover that everyone including his wife and children, Constance, Felicity, and their adopted daughter, Ann, has dark secrets and their own private demons.   When English describes the world as a turf labyrinth or “mizmaze”, with the boundaries of a chessboard as its metaphor, we see his children, Constance and Felicity, toying with the pieces, in a symbolic reference to God toying with our destinies.

Lars Klores (Mr. English), Rebecca Fischler (Jenny)  Photo by Shane Canfield

Lars Klores (Mr. English), Rebecca Fischler (Jenny) Photo by Shane Canfield

If you’re sensing a dash of Alice in Wonderland and The Wizard of Oz meets the Addams Family, in a story written by Immanuel Kant and Edgar Allen Poe and directed by Fellini, then you’re on to something.  Just remember to stage the fantasy in a comfortable Victorian drawing room with a fireplace.

In this carefully crafted whodunit, playwright Don Nigro reaches beyond a simple missing persons crime scene to explore intricate themes of religion, morality and sexuality in a mystery with cosmic mysteries.  “God swims in a mysterious soup,” English divines.

To express that the characters’ reappearances are but visits from another realm as they waft in and out of the misty scenes in a time continuum, their visages are cleverly illuminated, by lighting and special effects designers, Ken and Patti Crowley.

The acting is smooth as a bolt of silk with Mike Baker, Jr. playing the bereaved McGonigle, J. Andrew Simmons as Ruffing the lead detective, Elizabeth A. Keith as the aggrieved Mrs. English, Kat Sanchez as the adopted daughter Ann, and Lars Klores as Mr. English.  Gayle Nichols-Grimes plays the combo seer/witch in hoary and hilarious fashion (did I neglect to mention there was comedy here too?), while Elise Kolle and Emily Woods as the younger children exceed our expectations as the playful and mischievous foils whose innocence creates chaos.

Flawlessly directed by C. Evans Kirk, this production is highly recommended.

Through March 29th at The Little Theatre of Alexandria, 600 Wolfe Street, Alexandria, VA 22314.  For tickets and information call 703 683-0496 or visit


WATCH Awards Reach Out and Touch
Alexandria’s Little Theatre

Jordan Wright
March 6, 2011

Sunday night and the crowd at the Birchmere was explosive.  The WATCH Awards, which are to Washington area community theatres what the Tonys are to Broadway, were being presented and it was a pretty amped up crowd.  Covering as far East as Annapolis, and south as Prince William County it included Alexandria’s own Little Theatre of Alexandria, which raked in four awards for Outstanding Achievement in Choreography for Amy Carson for her work on “Chicago”; Outstanding Achievement in Hair Design for Paul Morton for “Lady Windermere’s Fan”; Outstanding Achievement in Music Direction for Paul Nash for “Chicago; and Outstanding Achievement in Direction of a Musical for Susan Devine for “Chicago”.

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