'Wyrd Sisters' may be weird choice for Monmouth Community Players

MONMOUTH — Take three witches who stir things up in a black iron cauldron. Add a royal murderer and a ghostly king, along with lots of magic spells, and you have all the ingredients for Halloween fun.

Remaining shows

WHAT: “Wyrd Sisters”

WHO: Monmouth Community Players

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Nov. 2-3, and 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 4

WHERE: Cumston Hall, Monmouth

TICKETS: Call 514-4929 or 512-2638, or visit www.monmouthcommunityplayers.com.

That’s what’s cooking at Cumston Hall in the Monmouth Community Players’ production of “Wyrd Sisters,” originally written by Terry Pratchett and later adapted into a stage play by Stephen Briggs.

The play pokes fun at some of Shakespeare’s plots and theatrical manner, with particular emphasis on “Macbeth.”

Alas, the recipe failed to satisfy the tastes of this reviewer in its first weekend of performance.

“Wyrd Sisters” is a comedy with a distinctly British pedigree that sometimes misses the mark with an American audience. Furthermore, it’s a play derived from graphic novels about an alternate universe with its own particular set of physical forces.

“Wyrd Sisters” manages to create plenty of laughs, whether the audience buys into the back-story premise or not. The lead roles are well done by several actors from central Maine, but the plot seems to dart off in so many directions that just when interest is building in one area, it is diverted to another.

Eliza Robbins portrays Magrat Garlick, a young and enthusiastic apprentice witch. She brings an easygoing touch to her role and demonstrates a thoroughly appealing aptitude for light comedy.

The other two witches are also well played by Jeanne Fletcher as Granny Weatherwax and Doree Austin as Nanny Ogg. The play gives them lots of entertaining comic dialogue.

Noel Thibodeau does a very good job as Lord Felmet, the king’s murderous cousin. He has some of the best comedic opportunities as he spends all his time trying to clean his bloody hands and convince everyone he could not have been there when the king was stabbed.

Jake Junkins plays Fool, a third-generation jester with a surprisingly realistic grasp of the royal shenanigans. He also catches the eye of Magrat. The role of Fool has many opportunities for that character to emphasize his balancing of buffoonery and intelligence. Those extremes could have been more clearly defined.

The plot brings TomJohn into the picture in the second act. Fifteen years pass magically and the infant son of the murdered king has been raised in secret by a man and his wife who are traveling actors.

Cameron Gelder, a senior at Edward Little High School in Auburn, gives a fine performance as the young king returning to claim his throne.

Mel Morrison is Olwyn Vitoller, the traveling actor who is entrusted with the infant king’s upbringing. He delivers a solid performance in that role.

Harley Marshall, who has extensive theatrical credits throughout the country, portrays the ghost of the murdered King Verence. His performance is on target, but as a character who is supposed to be a specter, unseen except by the witches and the audience, the production should have made use of some theatricality to enhance his supposed existence in the spirit world.

Andy Tolman appears in the tongue-in-cheek role of a playwright named Hwel (pronounced Will), which offers plenty of chances for puns and punch lines of a Shakespearean nature.

Michael Clements and Jodi Harvey are directors of “Wyrd Sisters.”

Although Monmouth Community Players makes a noble effort to bring “Wyrd Sisters” to a Maine audience, it seems to be a questionable choice of material. “Annie” and “Spiderman” are among the many comic strip and comic book figures that have come to life on-stage, but the 40 books by Pratchett that are immensely popular in England may be somewhat disadvantaged by a niche following in the United States. There are too many difficulties in transition from Pratchett’s Diskworld universe in his graphic novels to the stage.

Nevertheless, there are plenty of chuckles and good-natured parodies of Shakespeare in this production. Its remaining performances offer some good entertainment.

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The Discworld novels are NOT graphic novels. They are actual books with words and no pictures except what is on the front (with one exception, which was never publishged in the US). Maybe not so much in the US, but Pratchett is one of the world's biggest selling novelists, and in many parts of the world is surpassed only by that hack JK Rowling. Please do your research better. (And if the playbill says they were graphic novels, I apologise and may have Stern Words with the producers when I go to the show on Sunday.

That said, I agree with the inherent problem of bringing a very British story from a lesser known satirical fantasy series to an American stage. When my theatre company put on the same play in Virginia several years ago, it similarly sailed over the heads of many in the audience, and I cannot say it was not entirely our fault. Looking at it at a distance, I think many of us were too close to the material, being fans of Sir Terry's work. As a result, I think we were a bit lacking in the necessary task of pulling the audience into our world, thinking rather that they were already in it. We were doing it for ourselves and people like us rather than the larger audience, and that was a mistake. We had fun and it was a very good, professional show, but it was not one of our more popular ones.

So being a fan of the original material, I intend to attend the show and fully plan to enjoy it to the fullest.


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