Review by Barbara Popel
50 min | Drama, Physical | PG
Like Tom Stoppard’s brilliant 1966 play, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, Phillip Psutka’s splendid Weird: The Witches of Macbeth will now inform all my future viewings of the Shakespeare play from which the characters are drawn.
Weird gives us the backstory of the 3 witches. One of them, a gambolling playful thing “at least 100 years younger” than the others, is allowed into their coven at the beginning of the play. The other two witches then tell her to choose to which mortal – Malcolm or Macbeth – they will reveal his destiny. She chooses Macbeth, for the betterment of Scotland. Or so they believe.
Weird then gives us the Witches’ commentary on what transpires after their first prophesy to Macbeth. Psutka has them speaking lines from other characters in Macbeth. This works surprisingly well, particularly since all three actresses (Lindsay Bellaire, Lindsay Sippel Eitzen and Emily Hughes) deliver the Shakespearean cadences comfortably (though occasionally rather bombastically…well, they are witches after all). Initially, I tried to differentiate between the lines Psutka had written and those Shakespeare had written, but they were blended so seamlessly together that I soon gave up. Pretty impressive, aping the Bard in an adaptation!
Psutka as the fight director and his three talented actresses deliver a very convincing fight scene, too.
What else is notable about this extraordinary performance? Why the silks, of course! Much of Weird is performed on silks – those gorgeous strips of fabric suspended from the ceiling on which amazing acrobatics are performed. And this is the best silks performance I’ve ever seen, in part because some of the work is duo and trio work, but primarily because their silks work enhances the story so well. Kudos to the choreographers, Bellaire and Psutka, and to all three graceful strong actresses.
Psutka is certainly a multi-talented fellow. In addition to being the playwright, one of the choreographers and the fight director, he’s also the director, the composer, and, with Bellaire, the producer.
Ditto Bellaire. She’s actress, choreographer, and producer, plus, with stage manager Lisa Sciannella, she’s responsible for the makeup. If “makeup” includes the costumes, they’re noteworthy, too. The multiple uses made of 3 large pieces of stiff brown cloth are very effective.
The sound effects – lots of thunder! and occasional violin music – are extremely effective. So is the lighting design. Frankly, I don’t think Stratford could better.
This is an exquisite and very professional production which will appeal to theatre-lovers and to those who love spectacle. It’s a not-to-be-missed theatrical event. I can’t wait to see it again!
Weird: The Witches of Macbeth by Phillip Psutka is playing at Academic Hall (133 Seraphin-Marion) on Saturday June 20 at 11:00 pm; Sunday June 21 at 1:30 pm; Thursday June 25 at 7:30 pm; Saturday June 27 at 9:00 pm; Sunday June 28 at 3:00 pm. Tickets are $12.