BWW Review: MIDNIGHT DREARY Brings the Terrifying Tales of Edgar Allan Poe to Theatre Downtown.
Writer Edgar Allan Poe was the creator of the horror and mystery genre as we know it today. Suspense, fear and the supernatural were his go to themes. His death in 1849 of mysterious circumstances added the allure of his dark and creepy tales. He was found incoherent and panicked on the streets of Baltimore. He was dressed in clothes that were not his own; screaming out repeatedly the name "Reynolds". What happened to him is a mystery, just as he was himself. His works have inspired the likes of Stephen King, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Alfred Hitchcock. Birmingham playwright/director Daniel Martin has adapted a collection of a few choice cuts of Poe's library into a scary stage production aptly named Midnight Dreary at Theatre Downtown. Martin gives a proper Poe tribute in his presentation. The classic short stories brought to life are "The Tell-Tale Heart", "The Raven", "The Black Cat", "The Oval Portrait" and "The Masque of the Red Death". Martin successfully captures the essential eeriness in Poe's writing. The play opens with a feel and atmosphere of spooky old graveyard. Edgar Allan Poe (John Dyess) appears as the narrator in-between the stories. This approach gives the play a cadence of a good episode of the Twilight Zone; each story delivers fright and well executed scares. The strong actors in the ensemble play various roles in each tale. Their faces are made up pale as if they are spirits. This gives them a ghostly appearance highlighted by their costumes of simple period attire. This invokes an uneasy feeling compared to witnessing a free-floating full torso vaporous apparition. The macabre performance is accentuated with robes, masks, candles, blackouts, rolling sets and lighting effects. Much care was put into impressive simplicity of the performance.
Actor John Dyess gives Poe an off kilter awkwardness. His soft projection however made it difficult to hear his dialogue at times. He credits the director for his delivery of such a complex role. "Daniel had a special note to stay melancholy in the role. I am so glad that he did not direct me to be over the top. That I feel would just been my first choice. It was great to see a different direction for me to go for".
Jared Funderburg is a familiar actor on the stage at Theatre Downtown. Being in this ensemble brings much joy for he is a huge fan of Edgar Allan Poe. "Black Cat and Tell tale Heart were two of my favorite stories back in Jr. High, and now I get to do both of them. I really like those stories. I like the roles of the creepy, scary, murderous guy. These are roles that I don't get to do too much". He brings a mad darkness to several roles.
The play is not long. It runs just a bit over an hour: which is perfect for telling these classic tales rooted in fear. The scares get you emotionally exhausted. Martin took great care putting Poe's terrifying writing up on stage. I have to admit the play had my heart racing due to the scares and foreboding mystery. Be sure to catch this before it drifts into the cold, dark night.
- And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
Shall be lifted-nevermore!
Midnight Dreary (Adapted from the stories and poems of Edgar Alan Poe)
Written and directed by Daniel Martin
Cast: Edgar Alan Poe - John Dyess. The Ensemble: Anna Beth Shelton, Jared Funderburg, Catherine Champion, Nathan Merritt, Bliss Bailey, Oliver Summers, Cara Matzke
Oct 19 - Nov 4 - (Thurs, Fri, Sat )
8pm - $20
2410 5th Ave S, (in Fifth Ave Antiques)
For tickets and more info - theatredowntown.org or (205) 565-8838
Photo Credit: Steven Ross