REVIEW: “Killing An Evening with Edgar Allan Poe”
A cool, crisp fall night practically screams for an activity on par with the spirit of the season. For those willing to try something a bit different, you won’t find a better match than “Killing An Evening with Edgar Allan Poe”.
A limited engagement presentation of Summoners Ensemble Theatre in association with the Merchant’s House Museum, this solo show is back in its historic East Village location for the second year in a row, and just in time for Halloween.
Actor John Kevin Jones, known for his celebrated “A Christmas Carol at the Merchant’s House”, takes up the mantle of another 19th century writer: Edgar Allan Poe, whose macabre and mysterious poems and short stories made him among the most famous literary figures of the Romantic period.
Visitors to Merchant’s House Museum descend from street level to the candlelit basement of this historic home to take another staircase back up to a funeral-shrouded double parlor featuring an ominous, black casket as centerpiece, and forty or so chairs lining the dimly-lit room.
In the 1840s, Poe himself lived on Amity Street just a few blocks from the Merchant's House, which was then home to the Tredwells, a prosperous merchant-class family, before becoming one of the first landmarks designated by the City of New York in 1965, both its exterior and interior preserved intact. Now the parlor of this allegedly haunted, 19th century gem in period-perfect appointment bears witness to a ghoulishly good evening of literature coming to life.
Mr. Jones performs from memory four of Poe’s greatest and best-known works: “The Tell-Tale Heart,” “The Cask of Amontillado,” “The Pit and the Pendulum,” and “The Raven”, all while decked in garb of the Victorian era, embodying varying characters, and using a few props and minor costume pieces to evoke these chilling and thrilling tales of grisly murder, dismemberment, torture, revenge, and grief.
As Mr. Jones expertly morphs into each narrator, it is a joy to be immersed in the rhythm and imagery of Poe’s poetry and prose, and swept up in their spooky psychology. The experience summons the same magical quality of having a bedtime story read to you as a child—voices and all—with the benefit of a trained professional at hand and a setting that is to die for.
In line with the mission of the Summoners Ensemble Theatre, Director Dr. Rhonda Dodd and Mr. Jones skillfully manage to keep the emphasis on Poe’s words, exercising keen judgment and restraint in their employment of movement, sound, lighting, props, and costumes as appropriate embellishments in service to the work, instead of overwrought or unnecessary distractions.
“Killing An Evening with Edgar Allan Poe” is not a play, but rather a piece of narrative storytelling that celebrates one of America’s greatest, most peculiar, and haunting writers. I can’t think of a better way to kill an evening.
Bottom Line: Actor John Kevin Jones performs four of Edgar Allan Poe’s greatest and best-known works in “Killing An Evening with Edgar Allan Poe” at Merchant’s House Museum; the historic and spooky setting is perfect for this ghoulishly good evening of literature coming to life.
“Killing An Evening with Edgar Allan Poe”
Summoners Ensemble Theatre
Merchant's House Museum
29 East 4th Street
New York, NY 10003
Running Time: 70 minutes
Friday, October 11 at 7:00pm
Saturday October 12 at 6:00pm and 8:00pm
Sunday October 13 at 6:00pm
Thursday, October 31 at 7:00pm and 9:00pm
Friday, November 1 at 7:00pm
Saturday, November 2 at 6:00pm and 8:00pm
Sunday, November 3 at 6:00pm