A Selective Guide to the Arts in Los Angeles

Jenny O'Hara in "Broomstick" at the Fountain Theatre / Photo by Ed Krieger

The West Coast premiere of John Biguenet’s “Broomstick” receives an eye-popping mounting at the Fountain Theatre, having the distinct advantage of the incredible Jenny O’Hara.

All due to O’Hara’s credit, I didn’t realize Biguenet’s script was completely written in verse. The words simply flowed out of her wicked, twisted mouth. O’Hara essays the unnamed character “Witch.” What better character than a spell-casting sorceress to be talking in verse. Brilliant, Mr. Biguenet!

Believably costumed by Shon LeBlanc, O’Hara stalks the stage, her stage, commanding your attention as she welcomes back a young woman she took in when the woman was just a little girl. The little girl ran away after seeing Witch chase a little boy around with a cleaver. Witch clarifies that the little girl had just woken up and mistook a little piglet Witch was trying to carve up for her stew for a little boy.

Witch has an explanation for everything “bad” she’s ever done, or at least been accused of having done. It’s all the others’ faults. Or the person deserved what she did to them. Or it was just a coincidence that tragedy happened with her in the vicinity.

Interwoven in this intermission-less 80-minute monologue are tales of lynching, adultery, poisoning and murders that receive the full emotional range of storytelling by the talented O’Hara. O’Hara is perfect as the aging witch at the nadir of her powers and memory. O’Hara is the ultimate scary storyteller you’d want at your Halloween sleepover.

Kudos to Andrew Hammer for his incredibly elegant, detailed set of the Witch’s liar (set dressed by Misty Carlisle). Production values are first-rate all around, with spooky elements heightened by Jennifer Edwards’ flashes of lightning and candelabras blacking out and haunting sound effects by Peter Bayne.

Stephen Sachs directs this eerie narrative at a smooth clip. As mesmerizing and engrossing an actress as O’Hara is, and as clever as Biguenet’s script is, this one-woman show could be more easily digested at under 60 minutes.

—Gil Kaan, Culture Spot LA

Performances continue through Nov. 30at the Fountain Theatre, 5060 Fountain Ave., LA 90029. Show times are Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m., Sundays at 2 p.m. (Friday, Oct. 31, curtain at 6 p.m., dark on Thanksgiving Thursday). For tickets, call (323) 663-1525 or visit www.FountainTheatre.com.