Tony Dingman & Kelly Moore in An Evening of Poe.
Photo: Frazier History Museum
An Evening with Poe
Review by Rachel White.
Entire contents copyright © 2014 by Rachel White. All rights reserved.
When I think History Museum Interpretation, I don’t think vibrant, haunting, and artistically risky, but now I do. The Frazier Museum’s Halloween hit, An Evening with Poe, employs a gifted little arsenal of crafty, impish artists who bring the macabre stories and poetry of Poe to garish life.
The evening begins with two old time songs, Stephen Foster’s “Hard Times Come Again No More”, and the traditional “Red River Valley”, both performed by The Tamerlane Trio. This is followed by two poems The Conqueror Worm and Alone, and then a performance of The Raven with Kelly Moore, and Eric Frantz.
Moore and Frantz’s interpretation of The Raven, is designed like a short play, with Moore taking on the part of the Raven and Frantz playing the part of the tormented narrator. Poe’s writing is so evocative that the actors have to do very little to set the scene and tone; in this case less is more. They manage to convey a great deal with facial expression and carefully chosen gestures and movements. At one point Frantz’s face subtly drops in an expression of despair at Moore’s gently patronizing “never more”. Moore lends her naturally melodic voice and bubbly charm to the twitching Raven.
Other notable pieces include The Murders in the Rue Morgue and the Cask of Amontillado. Tony Dingman brings quirky physicality to both pieces with his portrayal of the eccentric detective in Rue Morgue, and the gullible hapless Fortunato in The Cask of Amontillado. He is charming and empathetic in both. In the final moments of Amontillado, Fortunato’s fool’s cap is just visible above the wall of bricks as Montresor (Frantz) calmly waits for him to stop screaming.
The evening ends with The Loss of Breath performed by the cast in pantomime, silent film style. It’s quite an engaging interpretation, but I admit I wasn’t familiar with the story, so I got a little confused. Upon reading the actual story later, what I missed was that the literal loss of breath was what kept the narrator from asphyxiating in each instance. Still, it was a very unique take on the work.
The stories are linked together by the Appalachian sounds of the Tamerlane Trio, which is composed of Mick Sullivan, Amber Estes, and Rob Collier. When we think of Poe in popular culture, we tend to think dark dirges, and baroque in a minor key, but the traditional Appalachian songs are filled with the real and haunting sadness that Poe must have felt. Songs like “Way Faring Stranger” and “Little Sadie” were a very real part of the landscape of his world, a world of death, lost love, and romance. The songs are more sentimental than Poe’s writing, and add some tenderness to the bleaker stories.
An Evening with Poe
October 23 – 27, 29-31, November 2-4 @ 7:30pm* doors open @ 6:30pm
*October 31 performance begins at 8:00pm
The Frazier History Museum
829 W Main Street
Louisville, KY 40202
Tickets available at Store.fraziermuseum.org
[box_light]Rachel White received her MFA in playwriting from the New School for Drama, and her BA in English and Dramatic from Centre College. Her plays have been produced in New York at The New School, the Midtown International Theatre Festival and the American Globe Theater, in Los Angeles at Moving Arts Productions and the Ensemble Studio Theatre-LA. In Louisville, she has had productions at the Slant Culture Theatre Festival, the Tim Faulkner Gallery, and Finnigan Productions. She is a recipient of the Litwin Foundation Fellowship in Playwriting, and was recently a semi-finalist in the Labute New Theater Festival. She is a member of the Dramatists Guild of America, and the Playwrights Gallery in New York.[/box_light]