There are numerous themes to Edgar Allan Poe’s body of work: Perverse, mysterious, grotesque, and merry. Coincidentally, those are the names of the characters for this compilation of scenes intended to reflect Poe’s work. That is about the last recognizable things which ties these characters to Poe.
It’s been an unmentionable few years since my sophomore year in high school when I studied Poe, but I didn’t think it too long entering the performance. Ten minutes into the performance, I was left with the sense – what am I missing? The writing is an original work by Robert Cousins. Unfortunately, it’s a thick, cumbersome, academic attempt at following a journey into the world of Poe’s writing. Themes and elements of Poe’s works were recognizable: Pluto the cat, obsession with a dead wife, mysterious sicknesses, life and death barriers, paranoia, court jester, and inner turmoil. But the compilation of these themes were just not seamed together skillfully enough for a play.
The performance is loud and includes audience participation and interaction. The audience participation is wholly ineffective and clumsy. Ms. Lucy Bond as Merry was the most engaging and talented actors in this group – and I write that not just because I met her Grandma on the way home. I think her talent would shine with more quality material. Olivia Litteral as Grotesque also shows promise as she moves effortlessly and has full command of facial expressions that are unnerving during appropriate times in her performance. Jacob Wheatley portrayed a pretty good black cat, yet his part throughout the entire 50 minutes was underutilized with respect to his talent. Brandon Walls as Perverse was my least favorite. Initially I thought continually rearranging his hair out of his face was part of his character or a props whose meaning would be revealed later. I either missed its meaning or it was just a personal mannerisms that was entirely distracting.
Tales of the Mysterious and Grotesque: The Works of Edgar Allan Poe
closes July 27, 2018
Details and tickets
The best scene, which is the only one that seemed to be cogent, was The System of Dr. Tarr and Professora Fether. The story line is predictable yet it includes a number of items and references from prior scenes. Therefore, the prior scenes are necessary and logical in the sequence of the play, but they need much more development to stand on their own leading up to scene six of a seven-scene play.
Not exactly an enjoyable performance. I believe most of that was due to the material rather than the actors. Dialogue is entirely too thick and overwritten. Many scenes include gratuitous violence, loud noises that is uncomfortable in the small room and even slightly jarring in the midst of a #MeToo environment. Some audience members nearby were visibly distraught at moments.
The venue [the Gold room of St. Augustine’s Episcopal Church] is small, miserably small. This is not much room for the performers whose plan evidently needed more space. There is simply not enough room for their movements, audience line of vision, and props. The physical part of the actor’s performance was noticeably awkward and, again, pulled the audience to noticing this deficiency rather than engaging with what was on display.
All in all, this is a Fringe play in need of more development.
Tales of the Mysterious and Grotesque: The Works of Edgar Allan Poe by Robert Cousins . Directed by Savannah Verrette . Featuring: Jacob Wheatley, Brandon Walls, Olivia Litteral, Lucy Bond . Presented at Capital Fringe 2018 . Reviewed by Kelly Whealan George.
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