Thomas Burns Scully, Contributing Critic - New York City
Maggie Lalley is a pleasantly gregarious presence on stage. Off beat and strange in a way that somehow still feels welcoming. This is a necessity with material like her’s, of course. She plays in the same vein of no-holds-barred, unapologetic, and unbridledly surreal frankness that comedians like Jamie Loftus do. When you’re going to go for broke like that, it pays to come as you are. In her new show, destined for the Edinburgh Fringe this August, she digs deep in to her teenage diary to share a story of sorcery, teen sexual foibles, and ginger movie stars. It is, at turns, silly, raunchy, and compellingly honest. As it gears up for a pre-Festival run at Under St Marks, you owe it to yourself to catch Cold Blooded Witch: The Sex Musical and see what the fuss is about.
In this one woman show, Lalley tells the story of a two-year high-school fling with a creepy, yet exciting, female classmate. Said classmate entices Maggie in to said relationship by claiming to be an actual bonafide witch. Like in Charmed, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, and Harry Potter, which were all popular at the time. She assures Maggie that she will teach her the ways of witchcraft in exchange for her loyalty. What starts out with the promise of self-empowerment quickly morphs in to an emotionally manipulative tryst in which Lalley is convinced that she is dating (and eventually married to) a notable ginger teen sensation. Who just so happens to be possessing the body of her friend at the time. As the lie unfolds, our heroine punctuates the telling of it with original songs that spur the action onwards.
Lalley is an excellent storyteller, as is prerequisite for doing a one woman show, and she really shines in the dispensation of her own material. This is her story, and she knows how to dole it out, taking pot-shots at herself all the while. “It turns out I wasn’t a witch… I was just really dumb,” is one of her refrains… and she’s not wrong. However, her self-awareness takes what could easily be turned into a misguided sob-story, and instead spins it in to comedy gold. By throwing her chronicle of (put bluntly) abuse in to the light of its own ridiculousness, she is able to take charge of her own narrative and mine it for its inherent hilarity.
As a result, the journey we get to see is Lalley reclaiming her life, and there’s something quite beautiful about that. Even as it is interspersed with gags and songs about cunnulingus, mediocre Al Pacino impressions, and trying to manifest telepathy whilst at a studio taping of an interview with a certain actor. Maggie is adroit with a turn of phrase for every situation, can put a piano chord to every problem, and also takes time out to thank her mother for helping her out of an insane situation and putting her in to a therapist’s chair.
Cold Blooded Witch: The Sex Musical is a one-woman show that’s earned its place in the biggest Fringe Festival in the world. It’s a fantastic opportunity to watch an actor and up-and-coming comedian tell a story that you, quite literally, will not hear anywhere else. It is superbly expounded, thoughtfully presented, and damn funny to boot. Before it leaves to conquer the wider world, you should catch it on its home turf. Maggie Lalley is a rare performer. What she does here is marvelously honest, and undeniably side-splitting. Buy a ticket now, it’s cheaper than a flight to Edinburgh.