Middle-aged house-hunters Joan and Duff O’Hara find the domicile of their dreams in Salem. That’s the Massachusetts Salem, infamous for its 17th-century witch trials. The mansion is spacious and nicely appointed, but strangely inexpensive. The O’Haras naturally ask why.

Their real estate agent, a gent named Van Buren, reluctantly reports that the place is haunted by a witch named Agatha Forbes. Agatha was burned at the stake during the aforementioned trials and has been grumpy ever since.

She’s also a ghost of habit. She appears but once per year — precisely at 10 p.m. on Nov. 22 — to scare away whoever dares to live in the house. She’s never failed to send them running.

Mrs. O’Hara is undaunted; she overrules her skeptical husband and insists on buying the place. Moreover, she plans a witch-hunting party for Agatha’s upcoming annual visitation. The goal is to make the witch abandon her witching ways for good.

That’s the setup for “All Because of Agatha,” playing through Saturday at Attic Productions’ D. Geraldine Lawson Performing Arts Center near Fincastle. The longish and fitfully amusing comedy is by Jonathan Troy. Nancy Lawrence, an Attic regular both onstage and off, directs.

Here’s who peoples the climactic party: the O’Haras, of course, played by Deena B. Sasser and David Watson; Ethel, their cook and housekeeper, a bit overplayed by Audrey Campbell; Dr. Randolph (Paul Mullins), a shy obstetrician who lives next door with his mother (Christine Kimel), who fancies herself a medium; Mrs. Boggs (Kelly Hoagland), a local fan of things occult; Joan’s man-hungry aunt Thelma (Wendy Claunch); a local reporter named Flip Cannon (Brian Murray); and of course Agatha the ghost, flamboyantly portrayed by Christina Konrad.

Van Buren, the estate agent, misses the party. He vanished after the first act. He’s played by Bob Holden.

The party is riotous (as opposed to a riot), but it has its comic moments. In one of them, Agatha hypnotizes the guests into revealing their hidden natures. The geeky doctor, for example, turns into a macho hunk o’ burnin’ love. His whiskey-shunning mom gets happily drunk and the reporter becomes a glib seducer with a receptive Ethel in his sights.

As for the fate of the title character ... well, that would be telling.

The handsome sitting-room set by Mark Moomaw and Karen Moore serves the play well. Marsha Campbell’s vivid costumes deserve special mention too, especially those for Agatha and the more wacky female characters.

Troy’s three-act dip into the supernatural is no “Blithe Spirit.” Lawrence and her cast give it their best, however, with the result that patrons are served a fair helping of yuks. When the play’s a lightweight, that counts for a lot.

Load comments