Themes of murder, revenge, plagues, and insanity fill the pages of Edgar Allan Poe’s dark and creepy tales and mysterious poems – his legacy and masterpieces. Now, apropos to the Halloween season upon us, these written words come to life onstage at the historic Mayslake Peabody Estate, presented by First Folio Theatre. Events take place that ‘no pen can begin to describe.’ The extremely talented actor, Christian Gray, portrays Poe, with an intense range of emotions, both scary, and at times, surprisingly tender, especially when reciting the love poems, so near and dear to Poe, “Annabel Lee,” and “Ligeia.” Written by David Rice and directed by Michael Goldberg, this eloquent portrayal of Poe’s work weaves both his sensitive love stories , along with his darker lore, enabling the audience, as they walk through the historic mansion, which so perfectly lends itself to this genre, to fully recognize and appreciate the genius that Poe was. Beneath this genius, though, lurked a tormented soul, hence the title of the show, “the Madness of Edgar Allan Poe.” The play, which runs through Nov. 4th, is an absolute must-see, with a performance by Gray and fellow ensemble members, each and every performance and poetic recital riveting and intense. As his insanity and descent into despair escalates, he maintains a powerful core that never dissipates. Of particular note is the haunting, compelling reenactment of The Pit and the Pendulum, where Poe finds himself brought to trial and placed in a pitch black compartment. The set becomes ‘dark as midnight,’ a quite effective technique, yet not for the faint of heart, as the audience witnesses Gray (Poe) descending into a pit of despair- madness, reciting, “darkness, nothingness, the painted figure of time.”
Virginia (Diane Mair), the tragic, sensual figure, and Poe’s eternal beloved, is a central figure in the show, and describes Edgar’s love of darkness quite profusely: “People did not want happy endings.. fear is what made Eddie famous…” Her soliloquy brings sincere tenderness and sensitivity to their intimate relationship. His desperate yearning for this woman of distinction reveals a man of utter humility and unbearable lightness of being, reminding the audience of the fine distinctions between sanity and insanity, madness and genius. The closing sequence, The Masque of the Red Death, is a true fete, portraying a masquerade ball, with exquisite choreography and costuming, with the waltzing dancers ominously confronting the fate and doom to befall them. Poe’s so called mad, ingenius imagination is the essence of this production, a true evening of undying love and legend.
Through November 4th
Wed. Thurs. Fri. Sat. 8PM; Sundays 3 PM and 7:30 PM
First Folio Theatre Mayslake Peabody Estate, 31st St & Rt. 83
630 9868067 www.firstfolio.org