THEATER REVIEW: Mac-Haydn’s “Major Arcana” is unlike anything you’ve seen before

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Mac-Haydn Theater’s “Major Arcana” is performing again on October 1 in Chatham, New York. Photo courtesy of Mac-Haydn

Major Arcana
Mac Haydn Theater, Chatham, New York
Created by toUch performance art (Marisa Rae Roberts, Elizabeth McGuire)
Directed and choreographed by Elizabeth McGuire and Rob Brinkmann

“Tarot, anyone?”

It’s a tough show to tell. Or, maybe, talking about it is the only way to approach it. Whether this is a two-act show, in which you are the main actor in the first half and a willing witness in the second, is indisputable. The actors are with you at the start, participants in a full carnival with bonfire, fortune tellers, tarot readers, something to drink and popcorn at the lobby counter. You choose a card, you meet your mystical connection, you participate in an “experience” and become part of the process. It’s an immersive experience where you become one with your Spirit Guide, for a while.

Madison Stratton stars in “Major Arcana” at Mac-Haydn. Photo courtesy of Mac-Haydn

Next, a beautiful woman, Madison Stratton, sings and the carnival calms down as you enter the Mac-Haydn Theater in Chatham. The immersion moves behind you and a review of the major arcana of tarot (the strengths of a tarot deck – 22 of 78 cards) begins. You now know that what happened before was the preparation for what is to come. The circus begins.

The next woman you meet is Maya Cuevas; she, who was Aldonza a month ago in “Man of La Mancha”, is now the tarot reader, a mystic who can explain the meaning of the cards you choose from the deck, which the Magician hands you. As Cuevas interprets the cards that may affect your future and present, the cards that emerge from your past and the uncertainty ahead, his mind joins with that of the card man to produce music, dance and images of the earth, the moon, femininity and sensual allure. The show is launched and it enters the world of mysticism, both fascinating and revealing.

William Taitel is the Magician. Its job is to swell your heart and bring you into the show, where you dictate the plot and songs through your choice of cards. But what you see when you draw from the bridge is pure magic – contortionist behavior on a hoop suspended high, a figure walking with rhythmic certainty, a burlesque figure with a figure to reveal, lovers dancing their tribulations and their triumphs. Singers of all kinds and shapes populate the stage for an hour, and when the Major Arcana is over, the show is over. You are done with its reality and you leave with a new sense of how the world works.

The experience is real, the cards leave an impression of change and point you towards your future. It’s a sight like you’ve never seen before. No matter how old you are, the circus makes you feel younger. And no matter how young you are, the show teaches you a lot. If you think you don’t – or think you won’t – theater, this show can change your mind completely. It certainly grabs you by the brain and makes you shake things up. I should know that; I am 75 years old and I have spent 74 years in the theater. John Saunders, artistic director of production at Mac-Haydn, is to be congratulated for bringing this unique project to Chatham. It’s risky, but the risk is worth it. New audiences may flock to her second and final performance here. The old audience may be puzzled, but they will talk about it for a long time. People in the theater will be intrigued and fascinated. And everyone who participates in this circus / carnival / musical will remember it for a long time. Saunders is even on stage singing and acting and enjoying us out there in the dark. The Mac-Haydn ends its season with the most unusual night of your life and Saunders tells you you’re worth it.

“Major Arcana” plays a second performance on Friday, October 1 at 7 p.m. at the Mac-Haydn Theater, 1925 Rt. 203, Chatham, New York. For information and tickets, dial 518-392-9292 or visit the site.

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