HOLLADAY – “Words can be more powerful, even than magic.” The power of the word, or the reality that people want us to believe was the theme at Wyrd Sisters on Saturday night.
Wyrd Sisters is based on the beloved sixth Discworld novel by Terry Pratchett, adapted for stage by Stephen Briggs. According to director Beth Bruner, it is also the first Terry Pratchett play to be introduced to the Utah theater community and the regional premiere of Wyrd Sisters. Holladay Arts has one more free showing (you can’t beat that price!) of Wyrd Sisters on Friday, October 29th.
After finding out that Pratchett has quite the following, I am ashamed to admit that I have never heard of him or his Discworld series. So, for those out there like me (a bit behind the times – like 20 + years, as it was originally published in ’88), let me catch you up.
In short, the Wyrd sisters are loosely based on the three witches from Shakespeare’s Macbeth (this I have heard of). In this adaptation, we get to see things from their perspective, reminiscent of Elphaba in Wicked. Again, I hate to say it but I haven’t seen Macbeth either, so I can’t ramble on about the parallels but from what I have been able to discover, Pratchett is terribly fond of retelling Shakespeare and interweaving themes from many of the Bard’s plays.
We follow the three witches as their story unravels in quite the humorous manner. The Duke (Jacob Bruner) is trying to convince people of a different version of the truth and thus we get the theme that words are “as soft as water and as powerful too.” He hires a playwright to write a version of specific events that will cast the witches in a negative light. Of course, that playwright is none other than William Shakespeare, or Will, as he is called in this show. The whole premise is innovative and fun.
I like what was done with this production and some of the choices that were made. This production utilized narrators (Jacob Bruner and Andrew Maizner), who were great. I was curious if this was a choice made by the Director (Beth Bruner) or if it was intentionally written, like the narrators from Into the Woods or Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. From what I have been able to find out, the narrators in this production seemed to be reading the stage directions – which was fantastic and a great nod to the playwright for having some humorous comments in his stage directions. This was brilliantly done and added to the enjoyment of the staged reading.
The actors were all strong. For the most part, their voices carried and I was impressed with their stage presence. The actors who played several characters did a great job differentiating the roles and I believed all their characters. The lines never felt forced or empty, they were done well and I firmly believe the actors owned their individual roles. There were standout moments by almost every one of them. I felt as if I laughed at the right times and never found myself thinking, “That is an actor up there, not a character I am supposed to believe.”
Despite my positive experience with the production, I have a few recommendations for the company. First, I would recommend that it be advertised as a ‘script-in-hand’ reading, rather than a play. Walking into a reading, with little to no staging, sets, costumes, or props – is jarring when you don’t expect it. I personally love readings, but I like to be aware when I am attending one. They are an entirely different experience. At this point, even a mention of this in the welcome would be sufficient.
I liked the idea of minimal costumes and I think it worked well with the simple reading. However, I think the witches stood out a little too much in their more elaborate costumes, which brought attention to the lack of costumes on the others. I also think the accents should go. They weren’t consistent, some sounded Irish, others English and some actors didn’t have an accent. People slipped in out of the accents as well, which drew attention to the inconsistencies. However, I thought the sound and lighting was great. Far too often I struggle with hearing at community theater productions and I heard everything wonderfully, so Brava!
The text messaging and eating of concessions during the performance was very distracting. While I love the fact that new patrons are being introduced to the theater, it seems that theatre ought to take the time to educate their audience regarding proper etiquette during a performance. The constant folding, sitting on, unfolding and playing with a chips’ bag is not something I expect at any show. I can tolerate youth banging their shoes on the chair, the general restlessness of a child, the whispering, the standing up and sitting down repeatedly. All of these are kid things and while not terribly appropriate in a theater scene, are tolerable, especially in a community theater production. The opening of candy bars, pop cans sliding up and down the seat of the chair, and 2 or 3 bags of chips later, this is beyond distracting and rude. Please take the responsibility to remind people that treats, unwrapping of candy, and chomping on chips should be done only when the lights are up. I am sad to say, the distractions did impact my enjoyment of this show. However, while part of my overall experience, I also recognize this as something that may not drive everyone as batty as it does me.
Overall, the reading was well done. It was funny, I could hear and see everyone, and the acting was superb. I had a positive experience at the production and I hope you will, too.