BWW Reviews: THE COMPLETELY FICTIONAL-UTTERLY TRUE-FINAL STRANGE TALE OF EDGAR ALLAN POE at Center Stage
Baltimore and Poe....so many connections.
Poe is buriend in the Westminster Burial Grounds, next to Westminster Hall, now part or the University of Maryland campus on West Fayette Street in downtown Baltimore, just a couple of blocks east of the home of the new Everyman Theatre.
There's an "Annabell Lee Tavern" named for the Poe work in Baltimore.
There is only one professional team in any sport named after a work of a writer, the Baltimore Ravens.
The Ravens used to have three mascots - Edgar, Allan, and Poe (now there's just Poe).
And on November 14 @ 6:30 p.m. there will be a Raven Special Lager special tasting at Center Stage.
On November 4th at 7 p.m. Liam Flynn's Ale House at 22 W. North Avenue (at Charles Street) in association with Center Stage and the Baltimore Performance Kitchen and the SingleCarrot Theatre present THE POE PROJECT at Pub Labs.
The star of Center Stage's production, Bruce Nelson, will be presenting an actor's workshop entitled "Improve with Bruce Nelson on Saturday, Dec 8, 2012 from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Single Carrot Theatre (location to be determined.)
That's it for the extra-curricular activities.
Now to the COMPLETELY FICTIONAL-UTTERLY TRUE - FINAL STRANGE TALE OF Edgar Allan POE presented as the second production of the year at Center Stage. Is this one of the longest titles of any play you've seen?
Now to answer the question is it a "trick" or a "treat". Well, it's not a treat.
POE got it's world premiere at the Trinity Repertory Company in Providence, RI in 2011. It was written by an actor in The Acting Company of that highly respected theater, Stephen Thorne. Whenever I see an actor turn to writing a play I get suspicious. It was directed by the company's Artistic Director, Curt Columbus who also takes the helm in Baltimore that he had in Providence.
But neither Columbus nor the fine cast of actors can save a complex book of a play which is salvaged only but an enjoyable Act II. You can save a lot of time and just arrive after intermission.
The play opens in a Baltimore hospital where Poe (the always magnificent Bruce Randolph Nelson, a member of the Everyman Theatre Acting Company) is stretched out on his deathbed insisting he wasn't going to die.
Then you are faced with another death bed this time in New York (inspired by Poe's "The Facts in the case of M. Valdemar (played by a creepy Libya Pugh). Vlademar is a mesmerist who is experimenting with a patient waiting to die. The body decomposes in front of our eyes and goo emenates from the bed. (This play is not intened for the young). There's plenty of blood later on.
Not much else happens in Act I except you see a glimpse of the young Poe (played by the wonderful Charlie Thurston, who was also in the Trinity production) just before the curtain falls.
It is the confrontation of Nelson and Thurston in Act II that is thoroughly entertaining. One of the best scenes involves the young Poe reciting a verse and the old Poe claiming it got better after he revised it later in his life. The conversations between the two is clever and entertaining.
You can't fault actors for a bad choice of a play. What Center Stage should have presented was the wonderful musical about Poe, NEVERMORE, done by the Signature Theatre in Shirlington, VA.
POE ends November 25. For ticktets, call 410-332-0033 or visit www.centerstage.org/Poe.