- Poe and All that Jazz
by Miranda Hall
- If Poe and All that Jazz receives the zealous attention it deserves, then perhaps this holiday season a Poe-in-a-box will give Tickle-me-Elmo a run for its money. Let’s give it that chance – for the kids.
Riotous and arrestingly revelatory, the Hamner Theater’s latest creation will surprise the laughs out of you. Helen Hayes Award winning playwright Peter Coy’s masterful interpolation of Cole Porter and Edgar Allan Poe overflows with quirky pizzazz as he explores Poe’s relentlessly tragic love life and the writing it compels. Resilient in the face of Poe’s verbose morbidity and encouraged by Porter’s upbeat quips, Coy injects his script with a deluge of pithy retorts and zany choreography to complement expertly selected Poe passages.
Coy’s Poe has lost his memory. Thank goodness a beautiful woman with a sumptuously jazzy voice appears to help him recover it.
John Cobb as Poe approaches the script with the perspicacious dexterity of a Shakespeare veteran. This man really activates his words. Cobb penetrates the labyrinths of Poe’s heavy narratives with such an unwavering commitment to fresh discovery that each word emerges as if newly minted to his mind. Disoriented, dubious, and endearingly sincere, his Poe is entirely human and completely preoccupied with a single objective: fall in love with a girl who will stay alive.
Patti Finn assumes the title role of All That Jazz as she waltzes between stints as Poe’s mother, love interests, poetic muses, and musical diversions. As she embodies the staggering list of deceased family members and fiancées, she exerts enough oomph to send Poe running from the grave. Her wit attacks with shrewd accuracy. Even the onstage musicians are enthralled.
So look out, John Waters. Poe is joining Hairspray atop the cutthroat list of phantasmagorical musicals with unconventional Baltimore protagonists – complete with a black feather boa.
Running Time: 90 minutes
- Tickets: Poe and All That Jazz
- Remaining Shows: Wed, July 16 at 6:30 . Fri, July 18 at 8 . Sat, July 19 at noon . Sun, July 20 at 8
- Where: Shakespeare Theatre’s Harman Center in the Forum . 610 F Street NW
Oh my God–Poe and All that Jazz-see it. It’s a ” must see” at the Fesitval. You will not be disappointed.
N Mulrine says
Love the responses, just have to point out that Poe & All That Jazz features Jon Cobb & Patti Finn with pianist Bob Bennetta and bassist Jim Ryan (not Meyer).
Julie Bonner says
I went to see this piece based on the recommendations from the Fringe aficionados both here at DC Theatre Scene and the Washington Post’s Going out Gurus who said “Poe and All that Jazz” promised to be one of the ‘must see” Fringe offerings.
And fulfill that promise it does!
Helen Hayes Award winning playwright, Peter Coy, also directs this production from his Hamner Theater in Nellysford, VA–outside of Charlottesville. His craft, blending what must have been intricate research is clear.
Can art be considered without context? Poe asks and answers this question stating that ‘it matter’s not the condition of the poet’, but Mr. Coy’s work sensitively proves otherwise.
Two remarkable young actors flesh out the tortured life, art and psyche of Edgar A. Poe. The production features a masterful jazz combo and unconventional direction to weave 90 minutes of clowning theatrics, psychological drama, dry humor, jazz standards, and raw sexuality.
It is a dream? Is it hell? Is it his life passing before his eyes? Who cares! It is fantastic!
Jon Cobb, as Poe, embodies the iconic poet and successfully illuminates the development of Poe’s personal life’s effect on his artistic work. The mental and physical gymnastics of this role and his execution of this task is top drawer.
His portrayal is so authentically human and clearly links Poe’s loss of his parents as fundamental to the development of his character and the art work he produced. Heroically, Mr. Cobb bypasses the obvious trap to merely represent Poe as a Vincent Price-ish ghoul. Any fan of the poet will be thrilled as Mr. Cobb leaves you thinking…and laughing…an even maybe a little misty about the permeable boundary between the man and his art.
Patti Finn seems to effortlessly navigate an endless array of women from his life and work. She is captivating and skillful in a uniquely demanding role–a role to which she is so well suited one wonders if it had been written for her! Ms. Finn manages eight fully realized characters—sometimes shifting from one to another within a breath, or with as little as a turn of a head or a gesture of the hand.
As if that is not enough, Ms. Finn, as Eliza, Poe’s mother who apparently was a well-known actress back in the day, also kicks ass as a torch singer, knocking out a host of jazz standards that are intricated into the action. A old-school jazz duo, Bob Bennetta, piano and Jim Meyer, double bass, really bring to life this unusual, yet wierdly logical musical connection between Poe and jazz.
No matter how you think you feel about Poe, you will find this work illuminating new angles of his life, the psychology of attachment and loss in the enduring work of a tortured genius.
I think it lives up to the buzz. It is at once delightfully funny, poignant, shocking, and macabre.
A must-see of the Festival.