Eric Frantz & Kelly Moore. Photo: Frazier Museum
An Evening with Poe
Directed and conceived by Frazier History Interpreters department
Works by Edgar Allan Poe
Review by Keith Waits
Entire contents are copyright © 2019 by Keith Waits. All rights reserved.
When we think of Poe we think of words, a rich language constructed to quicken the pulse and keep us awake at night, but this evening ends with an adaptation of a portion of his novel A Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym that is remarkable for how it uses silence. It is a measure of the level of invention and creativity found in this production.
There is nothing said about it in the publicity, but it was announced from the stage that this 10th-anniversary production of The Frazier Museum’s An Evening with Poe will be the last. Officially there was no explanation, but the word is that it is due to budget cuts.
Well, “never say never” and all that, but that may be part of the reason why this year’s schedule of performances is nearly sold out. Of course, the creative team in place for most of those ten years also enjoys an estimable reputation for quality and dedication to remind us of one of the greatest American writers.
Edgar Allan Poe is so much more than the bundle of low-budget horror movies that have traded on his reputation without displaying much fealty in their very loose adaptations. Has the dark poet ever been done justice in popular culture? We all think we know Poe, but do we really?
The Raven is here, performed flawlessly by Kelly Moore and Eric Frantz, as spooky and unsettling as you want it to be, and the unique three-part recitative of The Bells that has become a hallmark of this production has only gotten better over the years.
But The System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether is a highly curious satirical story played out by Tony Dingman and Ms. Moore dancing around the stage in wheeled chairs while tables are mysteriously moved and place settings changed out. It unexpectedly segues into The Tell-tale Heart, with an emotional delivery by Moore that builds to a feverish temper. The iconic horror story is a consideration of the weight of guilt that is everything we want from Poe.
The Tamerlane Trio has been a part of this production for several years, and beside some essential musical score for scenes their contribution includes several songs, most notably an inventive arrangement of “Wayfaring Stranger”, a haunting and beautiful ballad that was an apt companion for Poe’s words entitled “Hunter”, and a final number, “All’s Well”, written by Trio member Mick Sullivan that was also a perfect match in tone.
But it was Pym that for me elevated this evening beyond a worthy appreciation of Poe. The 40-minute piece was enigmatic and unpredictable, beginning as a tale of high adventure more in the vein of Mark Twain or Robert Louis Stevenson that eventually sails into much darker waters where despair and desperation result in the macabre sensibility that we expect from Poe. Although I have not read the novel, it seems a free adaptation and is staged with the wit and ingenuity required to translate an epic seafaring tale with minimal props and sets but boundless imagination and talent.
In 10 years, Evening with Poe has accomplished dramatizations of 33 of Edgar Allan Poe’s writings, which Mr. Dingman proclaimed to the highly appreciative post-show visitors is a singular achievement unmatched by any other company. Many of the audience members the night I attended were regulars, some of whom have never missed a year, and whose expressions of gratitude seemed heightened by the news that this perennial production is coming to an end.
An Evening with Poe
October 31 – November 4, 2019
Sold out Shows: Oct 24, 25, 26, 27, 30 Nov. 1, 3
Doors open: 6:30 pm | Gallery access and Cash Bar
Showtime: 7:30 – 9:45 pm* (with 15-minute intermission)
ALL SALES ARE FINAL, NO EXCHANGES OR REFUNDS.
*Exception: October 31 (Showtime: 8:00 – 10:15 pm)
The Frazier History Museum
829 West Main Street
Louisville, KY 40203
Keith Waits is a native of Louisville who works at Louisville Visual Art during the days, where he is Managing Editor of their Artebella blog, and host of LVA’s Artebella On The Radio on WXOX-FM 97.1/ ARTxFM.com. But spends most of his evenings indulging his taste for theatre, music and visual arts. His work has appeared in LEO Weekly, Pure Uncut Candy, TheatreLouisville, and Louisville Mojo. He is now Managing Editor for Arts-Louisville.com.