Something wicked came to the Ernest-Balmer Studio space down in the distillery this weekend. It was Theatre Arcturus, and it was ‘Weird’ – in title, and some might say in execution as well. This innovative piece: a first skirmish into the theatre scene for Arcturus, was an eye-opening workshop of a continually evolving medium.
Weird: the untold story of Macbeth’s three witches, takes a behind-the-scenes look at just what the witches get up to while ‘ol Mac is on his guilt-ridden rampage. Writer/Director Phillip Psutka’s interpretation is that, conspiring behind Hecate’s back, the three sisters: nubile and naive, fiery and fierce, and eldritch and experienced, took it upon themselves to manipulate Macbeth, not expecting the ambitions of both he and his wife. It is up to the witches then, when all goes to chaos, to restore the natural order by exposing the weakness of Macbeth, and ultimately destroying him.
The only characters being the three witches, played by co-founder and producer of Theatre Arcturus, Lindsay Bellair, as well as: Lindsay Sippel Eitzen, and Polly Phokeev, the playing of movement around the action of Macbeth is a daunting task indeed, but in spite of this, the witches scenes, kept mainly in tact from the play, are quite haunting. With wonderful synchronized moments; eerie flashes of light bringing the witches closer to the audience in classic horror homage, and through the rolling thunder and unwavering wind, much of the audience was truly spooked.
A very picturesque interpretation of the witches ways, the production did however suffer at times from a muddle of movement. While the silk work of Lindsay Bellaire was extravagant, the storm scene, for example, seemed to drag on for a time in spite of such wonderment. The waking of the witches, out of stone, a beautiful image, and done very effectively, may have been just two minutes too long, again in spite of the eerie images, such as the illusion of severed hands appearing from behind stone.
Perhaps part of the drag was due to the lack of a score, though the lack of music did add to the desolate qualities of the piece that one feels are necessary. A closer examination may find that the sounds effects then, not the lacking music, could be to blame. One found one’s self taken out of moments for the sudden cut of one thunder roll before the start of the next, and a suggestion might be made to have a boran to beat behind the audience instead of a digital drum, especially given the intense personal quality of the production; having that drum to further engage the audience, and literally scare them out of their seats may ground the performance, and keep up the suspension of disbelief.
Specificity is quite the challenge when working in such an interpretive medium, and though moments did tend to carry on longer than one might expect, the characters were focused, and driven. Based in earth, fire, and water, the three witches conjured their magic through the air, and all complete, the elements did come together to paint a picture of cohesion that bandied these seemingly opposed forces together to turn horror to harmony.
Speaking of turning horror to harmony, the splicing of Shakespeare’s words throughout Macbeth to create the production of Weird indeed took the horror of the original play and harmonized it within the boundaries of the three witches. The “sleep no more” speech became a chant of the sisters in horrible harmony, and it was wonderful to hear the words of classic characters move through these three wicked vessels.
A seeming contradiction at first glance, though moments dragged, one wanted more. The show, running only forty five minutes, felt far too short to fully experience the witches, and feel deeply the impact of their folly.
One fully endorses the production of Weird, and would love to see it put up again. Theatre Arcturus is forging its way into a melting pot of mediums that may achieve what the alchemists of old could never truly hope for: pure gold. Arcturus is a bright shining star in the theatre community, and one should find refuge in its light.