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Play delves into history to depict abuse of women


A play that deals with the sexual and physical abuse of women will be performed at Western Maryland College's Theatre on the Hill over the next two weekends.

"Vinegar Tom," a contemporary play by Caryl Churchill, explores society's prejudice toward women by focusing on the witch hunts in England in the 1650s.

The play jumps from the 17th century to the present, with the actors playing themselves, and explores how common occurrences can be twisted and used against another person. In the play, the target is women.

"The play provides evidence for making a case that if you hate someone, you can find a reason, in this case, for people to be punished or even killed," said Ira Domser, the college's director of theater.

Mr. Domser said the play, which includes scenes of torture and suggestive behavior, may not be suitable for children. He also promised that it will stir emotions in audience members.

"It is an extremely powerful play that manipulates the emotions of the audience to the point of intolerance and beyond," he said.

Mr. Domser said "Vinegar Tom" is timely because of the O. J. Simpson trial but that the Simpson case was not the reason the play was chosen for presentation. "The play sharply clarifies and proves the way that society has been prejudiced toward women throughout history and suggests that, while we are no longer hanging women, we are punishing them for the very things that make them women," he said.

The cast, under the direction of Ron Miller, includes 10 students. But no one will play the title character.

Mr. Domser explained that Vinegar Tom, who never appears in the play, is a cat found at a dairy that is used to convict a woman of witchcraft. The play will be accompanied by contemporary music, including original work by college alumnus Ried Wrasse.

"Vinegar Tom" will be presented at 8 p.m. today, tomorrow, Sunday, April 27, April 28 and April 29 in the "understage" of Western Maryland College's Alumni Hall. Tickets are $5 for adults and $3 for students.

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