BWW Reviews: RED-EYE TO HAVRE DE GRACE Riffs On Poe's Last Days

May 4
1:11 PM 2014

Though Red-Eye to Havre de Grace, an intriguing riff on the last days of Edgar Allan Poe, is, for the most part, an appropriately macabre and moody theatre piece, it actually begins with a bit of oddball humor.

BWW Reviews:  RED-EYE TO HAVRE DE GRACE Riffs On Poe's Last Days
Ean Sheehy and Alessandra Larson
(Photo: Johanna Austin)

Co-creator Jeremy Wilhelm opens the evening in front of a traditional red curtain and introduces himself as a park ranger stationed at the Edgar Allan Poe National Historic Site in Philadelphia. A congenial sort with a gentle sense of humor, he's here to gives us some background information on Poe that helps set up the evening.

"They have some really neat music. It's kind of different."

That music, composed by Wilhelm and his brother, David, is of the gloomy chamber variety and it's set to several of author's final poems (Conqueror Worm, The Bells, among others). The former sings in an imposing, husky baritone while the latter plays an onstage piano.

Using Poe's published words and letters written to his dear Aunt (who was also his mother-in-law) Muddy, the Wilhelms, along with co-creators Thaddeus Phillips (director and set designer), Geoffe Sobelle, Sophie Bortolussi (choreographer) and Ean Sheehy (who plays Poe), present an abstract contemplation on the mysterious events surrounding the author's death. What we know for certain is that Poe was traveling by train on a speaking tour and was found in a state of delirium in Havre de Grace, Maryland, dressed in someone else's clothes. He died a few days later in a Baltimore hospital at age 40.

BWW Reviews:  RED-EYE TO HAVRE DE GRACE Riffs On Poe's Last Days
David Wilhelm and Jeremy Wilhelm
(Photo: Johanna Austin)

Sheehy's portrayal of Edgar Allen Poe is that of a quiet, private man who is annoyed by the inconveniences of celebrity. A running gag has him being continually being asked by fans to recite The Raven. He is deeply in mourning for his young wife (also his cousin), Virginia, who spent the last five years of her life bed-ridden with Tuberculosis.

Dancer Alessandra L. Larson silently portrays his ghostly memory of a healthy Virginia; a sensual image that both comforts and haunts him throughout the piece.

The main feature of Phillips' sparse set design is, in the words of our park ranger, "this cool table that turns into a door and a bed that kinda flies around." I'll concur, it's cool.

Red-Eye to Havre de Grace may not answer any questions about Poe, but as an atmospheric abstract piece it should find its admirers among the writer's aficionados and those up for a bit of gothic moodiness.

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