Fear is one of the hardest feelings to convey in the emotional panoply of the theater, but POE, TIMES TWO, a solo retelling of two Edgar Allan Poe short stories, grabs the audience by the guts and pulls. With thoughtfulness and innovation, Playwright (and Performer) Greg Oliver Bodine manages to capture the two distinct flavors of fear: the creeping cold of drawn-out dread and the sudden hotness of the jump scare. Individually, these very different reactions are difficult to achieve, but POE, TIMES TWO manages both and in even mix throughout the offering’s double feature.
Bodine (as the playwright) makes strong choices in his selection and adaptation from Poe’s prose cannon. He gives audiences a nice jab-cross in his two-part structure, starting off with the classic and popular Cask of Amontillado and finishing with the far-less known The Black Cat. In Cask, Bodine makes a bold decision to reframe Poe’s usual first-person narrative style in the form of a trial, which raises the stakes of the recounting and gives his inhabitation of the revenging noble narrator purpose.
Similarly, Bodine amps up the tension in The Black Cat. In the original story, this narrator pens an account of his drunken violence at the antagonism of a black cat and his (similar to Cask) architectural obfuscation of his eventual crime. But Bodine again reframes the tale judicially, making the narrative into a jailhouse confession, delivered to the present ghosts of former cell occupants by this future recipient of the gallow’s tender care. While this framing device doesn’t benefit from the tension of the trial, it gains a sense of eeriness true to Poe’s milieu, further buffered by the epiphany of The Black Cat’s unreliable narrator realizing his unreliability.
POE, TIMES TWO
Produced by Guillotine Theatre Productions
Details and tickets
As a performer in collaboration with director Delisa M. White, Bodine successfully navigates the primary dangers of solo performance between the Scylla of overacting and the Charybdis of keeping an audience’s attention. He and Director White have negotiated crisp differences between his characters, not only within each story but between them, which provide such clarity of storytelling that they ought to be forgiven for being a little overwrought.
The best part of Bodine’s performance is not the differences between his characters or the clarity of his emotions within his characters but the sharp and speedy transitions between them. These transitions help move POE, TIMES TWO beyond mere ethereal creepiness and into a more true and varied expression of Horror as a genre.
The design expresses that variation, too. As I walked in, I was confronted by the second most beautiful chair I’ve ever seen. This chair (throne, more like) conveys, as a prop, the extravagant opulence of the arrogant nobleman in Cask while being an excellent piece of scenery that divided the small stage into workable transition areas utilized to great effect by White.
POE, TIMES TWO sets a high bar for the remainder of Fringe 2016. Greg Oliver Bodine has taken two very difficult but very Fringe-y types of theater, the horror genre and the solo performance form, and hit them both out of the ballpark. If you like horror generally, or Poe specifically, put POE, TIMES TWO on your Fringe calendar.
POE, TIMES TWO adapted from Edgar Allan Poe by Greg Oliver Bodine. Directed by DeLisa M. White. Featuring Greg Oliver Bodine. Produced by Guillotine Theater Productions. Reviewed by Alan Katz.