Evil womenIs that what you want to see?

These are the lyrics from the song that ends Caryl ChurchillsVinegar Tom,the next production of West Virginia Universitys Division of Theatre and Dance in the College of Creative Arts.

The play is about the witchcraft trials of early modern Europe, but also about dangerous cultural fantasies surrounding women that are still relevant today.

Vinegar Tomwill be performed at 7:30 p.m. in the Gladys G. Davis Theatre at WVU s Creative Arts Center March 14-17 and 20-23.

There will also be a matinee performance at 2 p.m. March 18.

Churchill, one of Britains leading playwrights, is known for tackling controversial issues in plays such asCloud NineandMad Forest.

InVinegar Tom,written in 1976, the author focuses her spotlight on females of the 17th century who were suspected, charged or even hanged for allegedly practicing witchcraft. These women were often single, older and with knowledge of herbs and traditional methods of healing.

I wanted to write a play about witches with no witches in it; a play not about evil, hysteria and possession by the devil, but about poverty, humiliation and prejudice, and how the women accused of witchcraft saw themselves,said Churchill.

The play is set in the 1640s, just after the Puritan revolution brought Oliver Cromwell to head the government and the ultra-conservative Puritans went about the churches of England, knocking the heads off statues of saints and breaking out stained glass windows. Fear and uncertainty were rampant in the land.

Evil womenIs that what you want to see?These words suggest that we, the audience, are the ones who need to ask ourselves about our tolerance for hysteria and terrorism directed at innocent women through many ages.

The play asks why we are fascinated by the spectacle of scapegoats, be they women, Jews, blacks, or any other group. Why do we watch? Why do we tolerate such things, then or now?

Arthur Miller wroteThe Crucible,using the technique of distancing to talk about the McCarthy hearings of the 1950s by dramatizing the witchcraft trials of Salem, Mass., in 1692.

Similarly, Churchill distances her subject by setting the drama in the 1640s, while preaching her sermon about the on-going struggle of women for equality and respect in a male-dominated world.

Vinegar Tomis directed by Jerry McGonigle, who is Mable DeVries Tanner Endowed Professor of Theatre at WVU .

The assistant director is Tracy Mallow and stage manager is Erin Mihalik.

The plays scenic designer is April Beiswenger; the costume designer is Judy Chang, visiting assistant professor of theatre; and, the lighting design is by Joshua Williamson, assistant professor of theatre.

The technical director is Matt Godwin; assistant technical director is Jon Snow; and, props master is Shaun Bartlow.

WVU students in the cast include Tammy Hoier, Aileen Targett, Emily Shaffer, Krista Prokopchuk, Michelle Gilbert, Liza Skinner, Leah Marie Zeller, Alex Pawlowski and Vance Barber.

Vinegar Tomis for mature audiences.

Tickets for all performances are $15 for the general public and $12 for WVU faculty and staff, senior citizens, students and children.

For tickets or more information, call the Mountainlair or Creative Arts Center Box Offices at 304-293-SHOW. Special ticket prices are available for groups of 10 or more.