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  • Stephanie Kulke

What the Weird Sisters Saw – Idle Muse Theatre Company

What if you had the power to foresee a war? An extremely violent and deadly one, that would be

fought on home soil. Would you try to root out the cause and prevent it from happening?

Three young druidesses of ancient Scotland have the power to mix potions and cast spells that

give them glimpses of the future, as well as the ability to question its inhabitants, both living and


Shakespeare’s Weird Sisters are at the center of Evan M. Jackson’s reframing of Macbeth—he

also directs –and many of the play’s famous scenes unfold around them.

Jackson is the founding artistic director of Idle Muse Theatre, and it was there he first adapted

the play in 2009. The current version was rewritten and workshopped with many of the actors

and artists involved in the first production.

At the play’s rise, the druidesses Murron (Caty Gordon-Hall), Dana (Jennifer Mohr) and

Alastriona (Jamie Redwood) have just experienced a powerful and terrifying vision of Scotland’s

future: a vision showing an even bloodier battle arriving on the heels of Scotland’s current war.

A bodiless voice cries, “It weeps, it bleeds, and each new day a gash is added to her wounds,”

and compels the sisters in magic to go deeper into the spirit realm to discover the cause of the

next war.

Stina Taylor’s ingenious scenic design makes the most of an intimate space, creating a playing

area that features Birnam Wood and the entrance of Cawdor Castle as well as a woodland

clearing center stage.

Those familiar with the Scottish play, recognize this crossroads space as the site of Macbeth

and Banquo’s encounter with the Weird Sisters, who prophesize their futures as King, and the

father of Kings, and set Shakespeare’s tragedy in motion.

But Shakespeare’s beginning is this play’s ending. But “What the Weird Sisters Saw” is less a

prequel, than a Shakespeare-themed murder mystery with the Weird Sisters serving as a trio of

sleuths aided by ancient magic. It is also an examination of the limits of human intervention on

another’s fate.

The druidesses cast stronger and longer-lasting spells that allow them to go deeper into the

spirit realm and gather clues about the coming war. But clues can be misleading if one hears

only one side of a conversation or sees victims’ bodies and not the actual attacks.

Prolonged use of magic has consequences. The longer the sisters spend in the spirit world, the

less easy it becomes to control its occupants. To say more, would spoil the fun of watching the

story unfold and the danger deepen.

The performers are well supported by the contributions of the design team: from L.J.

Luthringer’s cinematic music/sound/composition design, so versatile it conjures the sounds up

beastly predators, the clang of battles, and the otherworldly sounds of spellcasting. Laura

Wiley’s lighting design transports from the shaded clearing to the mouth of hell and back again.

Jennifer Mohr’s costumes give texture to this ancient Celtic world with yards of gorgeous Gaelic

plaids, and embellishments of leather, embroidery, and hair braiding. The violence

choreography by Becky Warner features top-notch broadsword and staff battles and hand-to-

hand combat.

In a play that centers the female perspective, the characterizations of the druidesses are strong

and distinct. Each sister possesses her own unique attitude toward the mission: Murron is

reckless – her empathy and desire to help others places herself and her sisters in the most

danger. Alastriana is heedless, impetuously following Murron’s lead her short-sightedness

sweeps her into an active role in the violent future. Dana is overly cautious, and tries her best to

halt the quest, and let the war come as it may.

In the roles of Lady Macbeth and Macbeth, Mara Kovacevic and Joel Thompson rise to the

challenge of performing Macbeth’s greatest soliloquys and scenes, without the scaffolding of the

full play beneath them. Kovacevic shows Lady M’s full range from snarling taunts to ravenous

ambition to haunted anxiety. Thompson nails Macbeth’s major speeches – the dagger speech

with druidess Murron as a scene partner is especially riveting. There is perhaps some room for

Thompson to show more of Macbeth’s self-doubt and distaste for murder to justify Murron’s

quest to alter the future.

I especially admired how Jackson skillfully rearranges Shakespeare’s text to his purpose.

Sometimes we hear Shakespeare’s verse in the early prophetic visions. Sometimes in scenes

between Shakespeare’s characters. And sometimes the lines are redistributed to the Weird

Sisters themselves.

There is plenty of excellent original dialogue as well, especially for two of Shakespeare’s

fascinating and underdeveloped characters: The Porter (Brendan Hutt leavening the production

with humor), and Hecate (Elizabeth MacDougald, terrifyingly beautiful) as the controlling

mistress of the Weird Sisters. Jackson’s original dialogue captures the spirit and heighted

language of the Bard and advances the narrative around the questions Jackson and the

ensemble are interested in exploring.

For lovers of Macbeth, “What the Weird Sisters Saw” is in fascinating conversation with

Shakespeare’s original text. I expect it also will cast a powerful spell on those less familiar with

the Scottish Play.

What the Weird Sisters Saw runs through April 14 at The Edge Off-Broadway at 1133 West Catalpa in Chilcago's Edgewater neighborhood. For tickets and information go to

  For more reviews go to

Photo by Steven Townshend.


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