ASHFIELD -- Double Edge Theatre's production of "The Magician of Avalon" is as ethereal as the legendary tales of Merlin and the Knights of the Round Table that inspired it. At the company's 105-acre farm amid the beautiful rolling hills of western Massachusetts, "The Magician of Avalon" becomes not only a celebration of the company's 25th anniversary, but a tribute to the theatrical traditions that have inspired the company over the years.
From the moment the audience arrives on the grounds of the Farm, they are drawn into the atmosphere, invited to play medieval games and take a shot at pulling the famous sword from the stone. Musicians set the tone with haunting ancient tunes.
The action begins with a storyteller gathering the crowd and setting the scene as one might have done long ago to chase away the winter darkness and fear of the coming Saxon hordes. As we meet Merlin (Carlos Uriona) and his eager student Arthur (Matthew Glassman), the audience is led through a series of scenes and stories played out among the company's fields and barn.
At times it feels as if we're flipping randomly through the various legends, as the story line does not shift effortlessly from scene to scene. But the movement from one place to another creates the sensation that the audience is literally taking a journey back in time to a world where people struggled to forge unity from chaos, found both loyalty and betrayal in the people closest to them, and discovered a fundamental connection with the natural world around them.
Director Stacy Klein excels at creating evocative images and then layering them into scenes that are arresting and often moving. As the audience wanders through various spaces, we see Arthur's education with Merlin, Arthur's vanity during a fight, the Green Knight (John Peitso) towering over Arthur and his friend Lancelot (Adam Bright), and Arthur's meeting with Guinevere (Hayley Brown) and the Lady of the Lake (with the Lady literally rising out of a pond and disappearing back into its depths).
We also experience a sensory feast as singers perform a Celtic song while the witch Morgan (Sandra Timmerman) casts a spell, swallowing flames for added effect. We glimpse a glittering angel off in the distance and enjoy the shadow puppets that illuminate another fireside story. At last Friday's performance, Mother Nature took on a principal role, providing the low, dramatic rumbling of thunder and flashes of lightning at appropriate moments.
As the audience moves into a barn for scenes surrounding the creation of the Round Table and the marriage of Arthur and Guinevere, the indoor scene becomes yet another world, where the action plays out all around and atop the table, as well as in every corner of the barn, from aerial swings and a bagpiper perched near the ceiling to a mysterious orb that moves around in the rafters, lit by an eerie glow. A wild hailstorm Friday night drowned out the words of the performers for a few minutes, but only added to the magical sense of light and knowledge battling with darkness and ignorance.
The final scenes return outside to take us to the island of the dead. As Merlin travels off in a boat, the audience is left with the feeling of being transported, if only briefly, to a legendary place where magic is within reach and where the natural world offers unexpected wonders.