BWW Review: John Kevin Jones is Both Ghoulish and Exquisite in KILLING AN EVENING WITH EDGAR ALLAN POE
For the past five years the very fine actor John Kevin Jones has been drawing packed houses to East 4th Street's 1832 landmark Merchant's House Museum building for Summoners Ensemble Theatre's delightful recreation of Charles Dickens' public readings of "A Christmas Carol."
He'll be continuing that holiday tradition for a 2018 run beginning in late November, but first he and director Dr. Rhonda Dodd offer a terrific Halloween treat, KILLING AN EVENING WITH EDGAR ALLAN POE.
The Greek Revival parlor of the city's only 19th century family home preserved virtually intact with original furnishings and personal belongings provides a perfect setting for the literary evening. Though born in Boston, Jones explains, Poe spent much of his life in New York, frequently having to change his residence because, as a struggling writer, the ability to pay the rent was always an issue.
He was paid $10 for his classic short story, "The Tell-Tale Heart," which is the first selection of the evening. Surrounded on three sides by audience members (a coffin takes up the fourth), the actor works from memory, taking on an eccentrically maddening voice and manner as Poe's unnamed narrator, explaining why his murder of an old man with a "vulture eye" was justified and describing the unusual punishment he pays for his actions.
In "The Cask of Amontillado," Jones is the elegant wine aficionado Montresor, who plots revenge for an insulting slight by another connoisseur with an invitation to his dark and damp wine cellar for a taste of a rare vintage amontillado.
The intimacy of the Merchant's House parlor allows the creepy tension of both pieces to be performed with subtly, with Jones' rich voice embracing the storyteller's vivid descriptions.
The final piece provides a change of pace. "The Raven," one of the most famous of all American poems, is recited in a more traditional salon manner, with Jones exquisitely portraying the distraught lover whose mourning for his beloved Lenore is interrupted by a visit from a mysterious and curiously-mannered bird.
Contrasting with his ghoulish portrayals in the previous selections, "The Raven" allows Jones to offer a touching depiction of sorrowful heartbreak. It's a lovely finish to an exceptional presentation.