‘Arthur, The Begetting’ play review

The Grange was transformed and transported to another time and place as the Actor’s Theater of Orcas Island staged “Arthur: The Begetting,” Jeff Berryman’s darkly romantic, slightly disturbing, yet intensely exciting play about early Britain.

This is the “prequel” to the Arthurian legend we thought we knew, expertly cast and directed by Doug Bechtel, with local actors who give astonishing performances of depth and emotion that weave a captivating spell. Artfully exploring large, historic themes interwoven with the intensely personal story of a young woman trapped between young, romantic love, family duty, and disturbing visions of the future, “Arthur: The Begetting” offers a new, familiar twist to an old story.

Three Kings compete for the affection and support of Igraine, the beautiful Queen of Dumnonia, after her patron, the High King Ambrosius, is murdered. Beset with sudden, disturbing visions of the future, Igraine is at the center of historic forces that will determine the fate of her people and all of Britain. Wife to a King and mother to two young children, Igraine will someday give birth to another King – Arthur. This is the story, told in a rich tapestry of language and raw emotion, of the events that lead to Arthur’s birth.

Indy Zoeller gives a remarkable performance as Emrys, Igraine’s young love (and future Merlin), while Zach Knight is simply terrific as Teyrnon, the King of Cornwall and husband to Igraine. Evan Buxbaum, a force of nature, filled the role of Uther Pendragon perfectly, and Ariel Vergen is a treat as Anna, daughter of Igraine and Teyrnon, in a wonderfully mature performance that captivates all. Freddie Hinkle’s expressive visage fits perfectly as Gaius, Physician to Ambrosius, while he uses his voice to wonderful effect in his interplay with Queen Igraine.

Valerie Buxbaum is Queen Igraine. Period. Completely, perfectly, totally regal, with an element of cold steel sheathed in a soft, lilting voice that hints of a wild and untamed borderland. Alternately loving and harshly practical with each of the men in her life, Valerie plays her part with a passionate elegance that entrances all, and it doesn’t hurt any that she’s also drop-dead gorgeous.

Bechtel’s dedicated crew has created a workable set that serves as castle, rocky promontory, council chamber, and bedroom under starkly dramatic lighting that adds a wonderful depth to each scene. This is a challenging play that forces both cast and audience to stretch their imaginations beyond a familiar story, with surprising results that will enchant and entertain everyone.

Remaining performances of “Arthur, The Begetting” are on Sept. 10, 11 and 12 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $10 and are available at Darvill’s Book Store, online at www.orcasactors.com and at the door. For more information, contact Doug Bechtel at 317-5601.