It’s time to chill with the FSU/Asolo Conservatory’s evening of Edgar Allan Poe.
By Kay Kipling
The cliché of the tortured artist has a firm basis in reality. In painting, one of the prime examples would be Vincent van Gogh; in literature, certainly Edgar Allan Poe qualifies as an icon of pain and suffering. Frequently miserable and sometimes reviled in life, he became after his death not only highly praised but enduringly popular for his stories of suspense and sometimes macabre poems.
Playwright Jeffrey Hatcher weaves seven of Poe’s most famous stories together with strands of Poe’s own unhappy circumstances in Murder by Poe, now onstage at the Cook Theatre in an FSU/Asolo Conservatory production. Recurring themes from Poe’s writing—premature death (and burial), guilt, madness and love lost turn up here and are cleverly adapted to Hatcher’s use: Murders in the Rue Morgue, William Wilson, The Black Cat, The Telltale Heart, and others are enacted by a second-year Conservatory cast mostly playing multiple roles.
These characters—killers, victims, and one of Poe’s most famous inventions, detective C. Auguste Dupin (Jason Peck)—are all found together by a young woman wearing white (Elizabeth Ahrens), who finds herself in a strange, dark house after being lost in the woods. As she struggles to figure out who they are and where she is (and why she is there), we get to laugh, gasp and ultimately be touched by Poe’s creations and his personal sorrows.
Elizabeth Ahrens, Kevin O’Callaghan, Jason Peck, Steven O’Brien and Brent Bateman in Murder by Poe.
Murder by Poe moves along swiftly (approximately 75 minutes with no intermission) and smoothly, with Hatcher frequently mining humor from Poe’s often twisted prose. The set in shades of black and gray, the lighting (especially when it focuses on the faces of the various storytellers) and various little bits of stage business all support the versatile cast, which in turn keeps the level of energy and emotion high here. Poe fans especially should appreciate the evening, of course, but even those who don’t typically think of themselves among those legions should still be entertained.
Murder by Poe continues through Nov. 18; call 351-8000 or go to asolo.org