Review: New England Premiere of ABIGAIL/1702 Fits the Season

By: Oct. 22, 2016


Written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, Directed by Tlaloc Rivas; Scenic Designer, James J. Fenton; Costume Designer, Anne Kennedy; Lighting Designer, Maria-Cristina Fusté; Sound Designer, David Remedios; Production Stage Manager, Casey L. Hagwood

CAST (in order of appearance): Rachel Napoleon, Mark Kincaid, Jon Kovach, Celeste Oliva, Trevor Dame

Performances through November 6 at Merrimack Repertory Theatre, 50 E. Merrimack Street, Lowell, MA; Box Office 978-654-4678 or

Merrimack Repertory Theatre presents the New England premiere of Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa's Abigail/1702 just in time for the Halloween season. The play is meant to haunt you as it explores the aftermath of the 1692 Salem witch trials, and the design team creates an atmosphere that is spooky on many levels. However, the external trappings notwithstanding, it is the demon within that is most fearsome and cannot be escaped. Abigail Williams disappeared from Salem to start a new life in Boston, but she will find no peace until she exorcises her own guilt.

For those of us native to New England, we cut our teeth on tales from the witch trials and have always had some bizarre pride in Salem being the Halloween capital of the country, but how many of us know what happened to any of the characters who were not put to death? Some families fled to Framingham where, even now, there is a street named Salem End Road. In Abigail/1702, the young accuser tries to lose herself in Boston and do good works as a healer, mostly caring for sick sailors. If the almighty keeps score, Abigail has probably earned sufficient karma points to make up for the harm she did; but there is still that deal she made with The Devil that looms over her.

Abigail's path to redemption relies on her good works and her faith in God, although it is clear that she is not confident that she will succeed. She cannot make amends to the twenty people that she accused who were executed, but she hopes that her attempt to beg forgiveness from the widow of John Proctor (with whom Abigail had an affair) will assuage some of her guilt and get The Devil off her back. The scene between these two women is gut-wrenching, thanks to the high stakes involved and the acting talents of Rachel Napoleon (Abigail) and Celeste Oliva (Elizabeth Proctor). Oliva is also featured as two other older women and does an outstanding job of differentiating them.

NapoLeon Carries the drama on her shoulders and capably shows her character's fears and conflicting emotions. Her hard edge and her nurturing nature compete when she cares for a sailor who comes to her with the pox. John Brown (Jon Kovach) gives her the kind of attention that she has not allowed herself to enjoy in her new life, but he also seems to be hiding from his past. The relationship between Abigail and John creates both sparks and suspense. Mark Kincaid, listed as Older Man, also portrays multiple characters in the play. Trevor Dame makes his Merrimack debut as the Little Boy, but the role is not well-defined and he fails to capture the importance of his character.

Director Tlaloc Rivas masterfully creates suspense and uses all of the elements available to him to provide the audience with a scary ride. James J. Fenton's scenic design brilliantly evokes a colonial cottage in the woods, and lighting designer Maria-Cristina Fuste and Sound Designer David Remedios combine to provide the necessary spooky atmospherics. Anne Kennedy's costume designs effectively bring us into the period. Playwright Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa knows his way around a horror story and MRT pushes all of the right buttons in Abigail/1702.

Photo credit: Merrimack Repertory Theatre (Rachel Napoleon, Jon Kovach)


BODY WORLDS: The Anatomy Of Happiness Will Make its North American Debut in July Photo
BODY WORLDS: The Anatomy Of Happiness Will Make its North American Debut in July

BODY WORLDS: The Anatomy of Happiness tells the story of the human body and the influence that the emotional phenomenon of 'happiness' has on our health. The legendary BODY WORLDS exhibit seen by more than 54 million people globally presents this brand new exhibition for the first time ever in North America at “The Back Bay Hub” on Newbury Street beginning Friday, July 7, 2023 for a limited engagement. 

James Hunter Six Comes to City Winery Boston This Month Photo
James Hunter Six Comes to City Winery Boston This Month

The eponymous James Hunter Six comes to City Winery Boston, bringing its distinct R&B vibe to town Sunday June 18th.

Brian Falduto Will Headline Pride Show at City Winery Next Week Photo
Brian Falduto Will Headline Pride Show at City Winery Next Week

On June 12th at City Winery, 'School of Rock' alum turned emerging queer country star Brian Falduto will headline 'Brian Falduto: The NY Pride Show' with special guests Will Leet and the NYC Cowboys and hosted by Hanukah Lewinsky, live at 7:30 PM.

Americana Theatre Company Presents BIG FISH, July 14- 30 Photo
Americana Theatre Company Presents BIG FISH, July 14- 30

Americana Theatre Company (ATC), Plymouth's professional theatre company, presents the endearing, captivating musical  “Big Fish,” on select dates from July 14 through 30, at Spire Center for Performing Arts, 25 ½ Court Street, Plymouth.  Performances are held on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7 pm, with 2 pm matinees on Sundays. “Big Fish” book is by John August, with music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa, based on the novel by Daniel Wallace and written by John August's Columbia Motion Picture.

From This Author - Nancy Grossman

From producing and starring in family holiday pageants as a child, to avid member of Broadway Across America and Show of the Month Club, Nancy has cultivated her love of the art and respect for the cr... (read more about this author)


#repshow# in[i]# A Conversation with Ira Glass & Jad Abumrad
Emerson Colonial Theatre (9/30-9/30)
#repshow# in[i]# Clue
Greater Boston Stage Company (6/02-6/25)
#repshow# in[i]# Burned: Protecting the Protectors
The Hanover Theatre and Conservatory for the Performing Arts (6/11-6/11)
#repshow# in[i]# Rocky Horror Picture Show with Shadowcasting by Teseracte Players
The Hanover Theatre and Conservatory for the Performing Arts (6/17-6/17)
#repshow# in[i]# Rite of Passage
Windhover Center for the Performing Arts (7/13-7/30)
#repshow# in[i]# “A Revolution of Her Own!™ Deborah Sampson”
Coventry Public Library (6/29-6/29)
#repshow# in[i]# Jersey Boys
The Cape Playhouse (7/05-7/22)
#repshow# in[i]# Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery
The Cape Playhouse (8/30-9/09)
#repshow# in[i]# Le nozze di Figaro
NEMPAC Opera Project (6/09-6/10)
#repshow# in[i]# Christopher Cross and Justin Hayward
The Hanover Theatre and Conservatory for the Performing Arts (6/18-6/18)

Recommended For You