BWW Reviews: Iron Crow Offers Queer, Quirky Spin on Edgar Allan in THE HOMO POE SHOW
What could be more Baltimore than a tribute to Edgar Allan Poe? And the Iron Crow Theatre Co. does it with a delightfully queer spin that, true to the company's form, is artistic, entertaining and insightful.
Of all genres of theater, I think revues must be the most difficult to coordinate and pull off successfully--and The Homo Poe Show, Iron Crow's effort in seven acts with a single intermission, speaks to the relatively large cast's skill and to the directors (Steven J. Satta and Ryan Clark) and choreographers' (Mara Neimanis and Tony Byrd) strengths in ensuring the acts flow smoothly one into the other. The downside to revues, of course, is the lack of a narrative arc and the staccato tempo of the performance; even with a general theme relating the various pieces to works by Poe, the production suffers from a lack of descriptive cohesion.
Many of the acts incorporate "aerial" choreography--with action taking place partially or even entirely suspended from huge metal sculptures (a ring and an arrow) by Tim Scofield--adding an interesting aspect to the performance, a sense of magic even, but in some instances, the aerial action seems forced and not entirely necessary. And the acts that are entirely aerially choreographed, of which there are two, are so abstract--more interpretive dance than theater--as to be distracting from the forward momentum of the performance. Because they consist of swinging from sculptures, albeit swinging that's very purposeful and clearly carefully executed, these two scenes seem to stagnate.
Some of the acts can be directly related to particular Poe works. For example, The Trick by Rich Espey (Act III) is an adaption of Annabel Lee (and maybe even The Masque of the Red Death?), and I'm fairly certain the final act, Satta's Grieving and Sequins--which the director's notes indicate is the first piece the company has ever created through an ensemble process--is also a nod to the latter piece, with HIV/AIDS replacing the Red Death. There's a raven, or at least a Ravens fan, in Super-Hot Raven by Megan Gogerty (Act IV), the only piece to address a lesbian relationship and the expectations that lie therein.
In other acts, including Thomas (Act II) and modern-dance piece Do You Mark Me Well? (Act VI and titled from a line in The Tell-Tale Heart), it was harder to interpret Poe's hand. Still, these two acts may have been my favorite pieces of the production.
Thomas features talented Nick Horan as the narrator, recounting the Young Man's heartache and healing following the death of his cousin and lover. His lengthy monologue practically explodes with passion, and Horan is entirely consumed by the story, which revolves around the Young Man's madness. The haunting quality of the narrative is heightened by a soundtrack that includes sounds of the sea (an important character in the piece) and a simple set, just a crinkled drop bathed in deep-blue light to indicate waves. Horan appears again as the main character in Grieving and Sequins and provides an equally exceptional performance as transvestite Rory, who has also lost the love of his life, this time to AIDS, "The Figure" (Alec Weinberg) who swings from a ring and prevents Rory from moving forward with his life; but this additional monologue-heavy piece almost seems redundant by the time we arrive at Act VII.
For this reason, the audience may very much enjoy Do You Mark Me Well?, a complete departure from any of the other acts in the production. The strictly dance piece features heart-pounding choreography that is angular and angry, even bordering on violent, but it is beautifully performed by a duo of dancers that includes choreographer Byrd and Weinberg, who appears in two other acts.
Through all of this heaviness (after all, Poe was kind of a heavy guy), the production is peppered with comic relief, especially in The Trick, for which Jenna Rossman provides a sassy and irreverent interpretation of Time. She's downright hilarious, imbuing her performance with joy and spunk and contributing a much-needed dose of levity to the revue.
The cast as a whole deserves kudos as its members wend themselves in and out of characters across multiple pieces, bringing their talent and professionalism to the revue as a whole.
Please be aware that The Homo Poe Show contains adult themes, language and nudity.
The Homo Poe Show runs Wednesday-Sunday through April 5 at Baltimore Theatre Project, 45 W. Preston St. in Baltimore. Iron Crow Theatre Co.'s next production, Bareback Ink, begins May 30. For more information, visit www.ironcrowtheatre.com.
Photos by Zachary Handler, courtesy of Iron Crow Theatre Co.