Kansas Collection – Chapter Six: The Witch
In the Kansas Collection, the Speakeasy Society has taken L. Frank Baum’s Land of Oz novels and brought them to life in an ARG (alternate-reality game) – an immersive experience driven by each guest’s decisions. Taking place in Kansas after the whirlwind adventures of Dorothy Gale, control of a dying Oz is at stake. In the latest chapter, The Witch, everyone is still reeling from the aftermath of the tragic events at Phoebe Daring (or is it Ozma?) and The Scarecrow King’s nuptials. Where do we all go from here?
The Witch is a return to the smaller, intimate Kansas Collection chapters, and guests are treated to more in-depth character moments. To catch up, find my reviews of Chapters One through Five here. Spoilers for The Witch and The Vow (Chapter Five) follow. To avoid the spoilers, click here.
Sand. Seed. Water. Fire.
I get an official video message from Queen Phoebe/Ozma after her abrupt coronation following The Scarecrow King’s assassination. She insists that her “recruits” bear witness to Jinjur’s funeral in order to maintain peace in her kingdom. Sure that she has ulterior motives, I brace myself for the worst.
At the allotted time and place, I stand shivering in the uncommonly chilly night along with other guests, waiting for further instructions. A leather-clad woman wearing dark sunglasses scoffs at the group before telling us to follow her…move faster… I recognize her, but can’t put my finger on a name. She leads us through a warehouse’s inner hallways to a small, cordoned-off corner, where a makeshift candlelit memorial stands in honor of Jinjur. The woman spits out her condolences for Jinjur, asking why we don’t mourn for The Scarecrow King as well.
Suddenly, Glinda bursts in, holding a gun, and interrupting the other woman’s scorn. Glinda threatens the woman and tells her that no one will mourn her death; we probably don’t even remember her name. The guilt sank in my stomach as Glinda’s words rang true. But, yes, I did remember the woman…left alone, crying over the fallen Scarecrow King. Lavender – that’s her name! But just as it came back to me, Glinda had bellowed at her to leave, and, in a huff, she did.
Glinda, deep in mourning for her friend Jinjur, finally sets her gun aside, the tension easing in her shoulders. A more defeated Glinda than the last time I had seen her walks us through the bearing witness ceremony. She hands us four elements: sand, seed, water and fire. The wind allowed all four to be born and flourish, and to the wind they would return. Jinjur, she said, had been born of fire…
“You can trust me; you just can’t rely on me.”
Our respects paid, Glinda leads us back to where she has been hiding since the wedding. The warehouse filled with boxes and an assortment of odds and ends gives way to a circle of chairs, on which Glinda beckons us to sit. Glinda shows us a map covered in red yarn. Much like a detective tracking a killer, Glinda is trying to locate a stable portal between Oz and Kansas. She needs to gather reinforcements…
Static coming from the small TV set across from us signals an incoming message from Phoebe/Ozma. We watch the video in silence, Glinda moaning with heartbreak behind us… Phoebe’s opening pleasantries ring hollow as the camera turns to Jinjur being interrogated, bloodied and broken. Leading the questioning, Phoebe coaxes out Jinjur’s confession of being the one who told The Scarecrow King where Glinda’s army was hiding, where to drop the bombs on Gillikin, thus beginning the war for the control of Oz and slaughtering hundreds of Glinda’s followers. Jinjur tearfully turns to the camera and speaks directly to Glinda, insisting that she had to betray her in order to attain Glinda’s help in beginning REVOLT. Satisfied with the torture, Phoebe cuts Jinjur off with a gunshot and more static.
Glinda’s sadness turns to rage as she gathers up her gun and barks at us to follow her upstairs. She wants to show us something. Up on the roof, a figure sits in the darkness, tied up and still. Glinda throws on a spotlight to reveal an unconscious Phil Daring. Glinda confesses that she was going to use him to get Jinjur back, but seeing as Jinjur betrayed her and is dead, Phil serves no purpose.
“An eye for an eye, is that the phrase?” she asks us. She shoves the gun into Phil, waking him, and asks, “Can I trust you?”
“Yes. You just can’t rely on me,” he replies weakly.
The Lost Princess Returns
Glinda continues her questioning of Phil, using us as witnesses and proxies.
“Ask him why he drugged Dorothy.”
“Ask him if he knew Jinjur betrayed me.”
“Ask him if he knows who the Lost Princess is.”
Frustrated by this tête-à-tête, and losing his strength, Phil gently asks Glinda to stop. He came to her for help at Dorothy’s behest. Glinda has had enough and aims her weapon at us, but Phil pleads for her to shoot him instead. Obliging, Glinda takes aim at Phil and pulls the trigger.
The gun malfunctions. Glinda tries again, the gun malfunctions again. Phil suddenly lets out a horrifying, guttural scream, after which a new calm settles over him. This change, very different from the one I have seen in Phoebe, marks a transition from Phil to Ozma. Taken aback by this revelation, Glinda finally sees that Dorothy and Phil were right; Ozma is within the Daring twins, the bad within Phoebe, the good within Phil. Glinda unties Phil/Ozma, who stands and gently touches each of the witnesses to his transition. He tells Glinda to teach Phil magic, if she can remember how, and that Ozma’s reclaiming of the throne is imminent. Phil/Ozma holds an emotional Glinda to him and whispers something in her ear – before letting go and giving control back to Phil.
Glinda heads to secure the building as Phil leads us to the building’s exit. A sweet yet sad presence, this is my first real interaction with Phil Daring. He tells us of his relationship with his sister, how she would encourage him to live more fully. How she is his best friend. And, with a new fire in his eyes, how he will not leave her. Insisting he will save Phoebe from herself/Ozma, Phil’s determination radiated into me. I found myself hopeful for the first time since entering this world. Hopeful that the good will win out in this fight for Oz’s future.
“What do you call a witch with no magic?”
“If it’s you, powerful.”
I absolutely adore the Kansas Collection and Speakeasy Society’s knack for expanding the Oz world in unforeseen ways. More personal than previous installments, The Witch dove into the psyches of several characters that were new to me, and also ran the gamut of emotions – from resentment to sadness and loss to betrayal to hope. With Oz falling apart after The Vow, The Witch presented the opportunity for the unification of those who wish to see Oz flourish in magic once again. The actors continue to bring a well of emotional gravitas to their interpretations of the beloved Baum characters, and I am moved by each and every one of them. Speakeasy Society’s artistic details – a memorial, the ongoing encrypted video messages, the scenery – embellish the world they’ve created, envelope their audience, and transport us to a magical place that I, along with many others, can’t get enough of.
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