Central Works’ ‘Wyrd Sisters’ Is Mutated Offspring of the Bard

By BETSY HUNTON Special to the Planet
Tuesday June 17, 2003

First, let’s make it clear that “The Wyrd Sisters,” which opened June 13 at the Berkeley City Club, couldn’t be any newer or more modern in its creation. This is important to remember since the play itself is so strongly reminiscent of an earlier period of playwriting.  

“The Sisters” is the product of Central Works, the Berkeley theater company that’s been creating its own plays with great success for the last 12 years, usually grabbing an idea or characters from some literary golden calf as a starting point. When they’re through working it over, the mama cow herself might have trouble claiming the relationship. Last year, for example, they took the three sisters from “King Lear” and ended up with a comedy—a successful comedy. 

So it shouldn’t be too surprising that “The Wyrd Sisters,” despite its Shakespearean genesis—very probably in “Macbeth”—is a long, long way from anything the Bard himself would have recognized. What we have here is a comedy which could have come straight out of the 1930s or 1940s: the kind of plays and movies people used to make before everybody went off to film school on their way to Sundance to do “meaningful” and “symbolic” (and totally incomprehensible) works requiring a really good grasp of the term “post-modern.” Whatever “The Sisters” is, it isn’t post-modern. Heck, it isn’t even modern. 

But it certainly is fun. 

In hallowed fashion, it’s a dark and stormy night and two sisters (Rica Anderson and Claudia Rosa), very modern young businesswomen, lose their way in the woods. In the best tradition of these things, they find a huge, old, spooky house and a mysterious old lady--who looks a little like a witch in a fairy tale—who lives there all by herself.  

Naturally (what else?), the sisters decide to spend the night. Ring in the thunder and the lightning and the cackling of their scary hostess (Sandra Schlechter), who says strange things and seems to have mysterious powers. 

So then we get to the middle of the night. Like all respectable ghost stories this one involves people getting out of bed and wandering around downstairs in order to get into trouble. And indeed they do. Things get properly harrowing as the old lady starts practicing black magic and the increasingly berserk older sister begins to think up new ways to get rid of the boss who stands in the way of her corporate climb.  

It would be unfair to go into further detail—but it involves a watermelon.  

By the start of the second act, things have become hysterical enough to warrant the appearance of that standard British figure, the proper detective: suit, vest, white shirt, tie, overcoat and all.  

It’s rather nice, and an interesting change in tone. (Nothing else about the play is particularly British, but who cares?)  

All in all, there’s a very satisfying ending to a very nice piece of fluff.  

Not surprisingly, Central Works, which makes a philosophy of offering affordable prices as well as occasional free or “pay what you can” performances, has not yet acquired its own theater. The productions frequently appear at the Berkeley City Club, and, for this play, the Julia Morgan building could not be bettered. The room is large with a high ceiling and an impressive fireplace—for this performance, draped with the kind of gewgaws one would expect to have accumulated over long years. 

It may be hard for some of us to go into that room in the future without half-expecting a witch to appear.