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Review: Wyrd serves up offbeat fare for adventuresome theatregoers

Musical is a satirical examination of the patriarchal abuse of women
From left, Jamie Tognazzini, Yasmin D'Oshun, Erin Pettifog, Ashley Robyn and Jordan Kaltenbruner in Wyrd. MANU KEGGENHOFF

Storks copulate madly, witches cavort gladly, billionaires behave badly and a toad is crushed (sadly).

Such hijinks are to be found in Wyrd, a new feminist musical playing Victoria following its world première at the Yukon Arts Centre in March. The title refers to the three “hags” in the show, inspired by the witches in Macbeth.

Collectively created over two years by Whitehorse-based Larrikin Entertainment in association with Victoria’s Atomic Vaudeville, this 100-minute romp with a cast of nine is a satirical examination of the patriarchal abuse of women. It’s certainly not garden-variety subject matter for musicals. Yet Wryd does endeavour to lighten the load with oodles of raunchy humour.

With its all-female cast, crew and creative team, Wyrd is a prime example of sisters doing it for themselves. The musical boasts worthwhile songs and, on Thursday night, showcased some good singing and acting. That said, it did seem like a work in progress — the show has a patchwork feel and lacks cohesion overall.

The main protagonist is an everywoman simply named “Woman” (Erin Pettifor). She’s badly upset when we meet her, having checked into a motel after escaping an abusive lover. Frightened by a frog that strays into her room, Woman stamps on it and is mysteriously transported to a foul bog populated by three witches. They convince Woman to join them in a ritual requiring a witch’s brew of beetles, lichen and other ingredients.

“I’m not a hag,” Woman protests.

“Are you over the age of 35?” they ask.

“Yes,” she replies.

“You’ll do.”

Woman agrees to participate in the ritual (the object of which is unclear) while secretly hoping to find a path out of the bog. Meanwhile, we realize the witches are quite like Shakespeare’s “weird sisters” when a tartaned Macbeth shows up (an amusing turn by Ashley Robyn). As per Shakespeare’s play, the hags prophesy his rise to power — “Dude, you’re gonna be king!”

Wryd’s humour is intentionally broad, profane and often sophomoric. Fans of Atomic Vaudeville will be familiar with this comedy style, and indeed AV co-founder Britt Small is the show’s director.

One witch snacks from a bag of severed penises. When Woman watches television she sees a commercial starring a character with a four-pronged penis (phalli loom large in Wyrd). Another ad features billionaires Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson. They brag about their space travel plans while loudly talking over Roberta Bondar, who happens to be a real astronaut. She deflates their braggadocio by noting: “Fun fact — you can’t get erections in space.” Undeterred, the trio belt out Boners in Space.

Such comedy is a matter of taste. Yet despite sharing an anti-male-chauvinist slant, these bits sometimes had a tacked-on feel.

Ditto for a character named Louise Yellow Snatch, played by Isabelle James Walker. She reunites with the witches after an unsuccessful trip to obtain an abortion. Fair enough — but the twist seemed unconnected to the central plot. The second-act appearance of two amorous puppet storks is even more of a head-scratcher.

Songs composed by Shirley Gnome, Ashley Robyn and Selina Heyligers-Hare are tuneful and well sung. Various genres are represented: pop, rock, alt-folk, quasi-opera/classical. Backed by drums, cello, bass, guitars and keyboards, there were a clutch of stand-out performances. Among them was a love lament sung by witch Black Annis (classically trained soprano Hannah Mazurek), who bulls-eyed tricky high notes with operatic brio.

Also notable was the charismatic Jamie Tognazzini, who played a freakishly long-armed witch with a compelling theatrical vivaciousness.

Wyrd finishes with a rousing number — “you’re in the bog zone!” — with the whole gang singing into toad-stool mics. It’s an engaging rock-and-roll spoof complete with smoke machines and wild guitar solos. More of that energy level throughout would have given the performance an added lift.

Wryd won’t be to everyone’s taste. Still, those intrigued by its sisterhood themes — or adventuresome theatregoers who crave offbeat fare - may find it worth the trip. The final two performances happen at Quadra Street’s Metro Studio today at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.

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