Edgar Allan Poe. A creepy, dark cellar with low ceilings and candlelight. The ghosts of the past haunting a long-dead writer of the past. What’s not to like?
Annapolis Shakespeare Company serves up a nice bit of October atmosphere with its spare rendering of an artist in torment. Set in the cramped, low ceilinged cellar pub of the centuries-old Reynolds Tavern in Annapolis, it’s a nice evening with Mr. Poe, one of dark gloom, longing and despair.
You’d be hard pressed to find a more tragic figure: Married early to his cousin, Virginia Clemm, who died young, Poe found little success as a full time writer and eventually died in poverty in Baltimore at the age of 40. His eventual descent into madness and an early death is well known, though here, the focus is on Poe’s interior battle with his muse and the memories of his deceased wife. As a lover, Edgar Allan Poe loved and lost and never again felt the joy of the first without reliving the sorrow of the second.
Brian Keith MacDonald as Poe certainly looks the part, and sounds it, with his soft Richmond drawl; you can see him beginning to unravel during the second act. But it’s Renata Plecha, in turns playing the surly barkeeper, Poe’s wife Virginia, and finally the Muse, that gives the show some life: she’s quite adept and making these transitions with just the shrug of a shoulder or a shift in attitude.
Costumes by AT Jones & Sons are quite fine, and historically accurate – important in a performance that features no set, no stage, and only ambient lighting by candlelight and electric sconces.
October 6 – November 25, 2015
at 1744 Pub at Reynolds Tavern
7 Church Circle
Annapolis, MD 21401
1 hour, 30 minutes
Tuesday and Wednesdays
Tickets: $75 (dinner and show)
Details and Tickets
This is a world premiere by Gregory Thomas Martin. The script itself is a bit tricky, unless you’re a diehard Poe fan. The main difficulty is that a great deal of the play itself is taken whole cloth from Poe’s poems, and bisected with language written in the style of the poems. The end result is a Victorian labyrinth of words, making it hard to follow at times.
But poetry isn’t dialogue, especially to modern ears, and the intricate Victorian writing, though historically accurate, doesn’t entirely transport the audience the way the writer intended. To balance that, there’s a good deal of audience participation- Poe asks us again and again, whether his writing is any good, and to a man, we assured him it is.
It’s still a good show for all that- for an hour you’re in a dank pub in 1840s Baltimore, watching a man drinking and trying to put his thoughts on paper.
Too bad we can’t go back in time and assure the real Poe that yes, his writing was good.
Poe by Gregory Thomas Martin . Director: Sally Boyett . Featuring Brian Keith MacDonald and Renata Plecha . Voice Coach: Nancy Krebs . Costumes: A.T Jones & Sons . Stage Manager: David Johnson . Produced by Annapolis Shakespeare Company . Reviewed by Jill Kyle-Keith.