There are minor spoilers for The Axe, Chapter 2 in The Speakeasy Society’s The Kansas Collection below, but we’ve done our best to avoid plot points and keep key characters ambiguous.
Thank you to Max Droegemueller for his helpful comments and direction on this review.
“I’m going to give you a bit of advice, take it from a professional: You can’t play all the sides. Play your own. Following just leads you down paths you don’t want to go…”
Taking the entire Oz series and adapting it into a series of immersive experiences is no easy task. But doing so in a manner that makes you forget the Judy Garland era Oz is one that only The Speakeasy Society can accomplish.
The Axe introduces us to an Oz that is both different from the one we grew up with and different from the one we witnessed at The Key. Divorced from magic, it is dark, it is gritty, and it is desperate. But you wouldn’t know this from looking in from the outside. Entering the building reveals a space for friends to gather and enjoy a drink. Warm quilts line the walls, sewing machines guard the perimeter, and a friendly man in a conductor’s hat welcomes each new guest with glee. But when you begin to look in the fringes, you’ll see hints of the real Oz I was talking about. Letters from across time desperately searching for Miss Dorothea Gale, a jar of keys seized from failed recruits, and a stolen roster of new pledges to the Armed Militia are all hidden just out of sight. These just hint at the darkness you’ll witness inside.
Inside, you will be tested, you will be questioned, and you will be threatened. But whether you give up the information you have or guard it with your life is your choices. And trust us, these choices matter in the Kansas Collection. This journey is a personal one, and the choices we make will have consequence as we move forward. Again, you can’t play all sides–but you can play your own.
Relish in the darkness, but the true brilliance of this experience lies in the immense strength of the actors. This incredible cast proves that you don’t need impressive special effects or lavish sets to create a successful show. Relying on nothing but her Axe, the female lead solidifies the show’s themes of desperation, loss, and betrayal, making me fear her–but also respect her. General Jinjur offers a nod to the Baum books for fans, but is imposing in her totalitarian quest for information. If you make certain choices, you can meet a perfectly cast Cowardly Lion. As cunning as she is beautiful, this is not the lion from the past. She offers you a chance to change your path, and the advice of being loyal to no one but yourself. However, it is James Cowan as the Tin Man that steals the show. He brought me to tears with his tale of how he lost his heart and how Dorothy helped him regain it again.
The Axe is a sophisticated take on a classic tale. It preys on expectation and emotion in a brilliant fashion, while paying homage to the original Baum novels. With each chapter, new choices are offered, each leading down a different path. And be careful in what you say–because your choices do matter. A world is being formed, sides are being taken, and choices are being made. This is an unforgettable journey down a yellow brick road that you won’t want to miss.