Great Poe Theater Comes to Southern California! A review of “Drama After Dark -An Evening With Poe & Gorey”

poe show signs

Pick one…if you dare!

As a native Southern Californian, I have always longed for great, local, Poe Theater to go to. I have been fortunate enough to have attended great Edgar Allan Poe themed shows in Baltimore and Virgina. But have always felt a void in our local theater scene. Well! My wish has been granted! Last night {October 17th, 2014} I went to The Guild of St. Gorge’s presentation, “Drama After Dark -An Evening With Poe & Gorey” in Rancho Cucamonga. This show presented the heart of Mr. Poe’s works within unique, and intimate settings. This show was more of an event, as there were 11 different performances happen every half hour around the complex! You were given a wrist band and a list of the performances you could select from. It was like a “Chose Your Own Adventure” book come to life! The only unfortunate part was that you could only get in 7 of the 11 performances in the time allotted! The show did feature 2 performances of Edward Gorey’s works. However, with the limited time, my party and I decided to focus only on Mr. Poe!

Show list in hand, we set about our task of enjoying some of our favorite Poe peaces!

poe show info

1. We began with the highly anticipated “The Pit & The Pendulum”. I considered sharing my review on this performance last, as it is my fashion to save the best for last…but, I thought I would error on the side of chronological order! ๐Ÿ˜‰ We entered at relatively small room. And the crowd commenced a nervous chatter, until the star of the short story came on to the stage. The energy was thick with excitement and a touch of fear! Here is a picture of the magnificently foreboding stage:

poe show stage

The actor, Cylan Brown, began the performance. The room was dark, and only the red lights on the red curtains, and the candles were present to keep us from insanity! And then, Brown, put the candles out, -one by one. Darkness descended upon us. For 11 of the 24 minutes were in total darkness. One felt the thrilling, eery, sense that Mr. Poe worked so hard to create in his short stories. Many of us have read this short before, and it was a pleasure to experience it once again as if for the first time! Cylan Brown was absolutely riveting! His energy was intense, believable, and spellbinding! Of all of the Poe shows that I have been to, this was my favorite performance! And the murmurs about those in attendance echoed my thoughts!

2. Next we went to “The Fall of the House of Usher”. This was inside of the actual theater on the grounds, however it was not on the stage! There was a beautiful chair and a table set up in the center of the area where the audience sits. We sat directly in front of the actor and there were only about 2 to 3 rows of people. Finn White played the narrator, and was superb! He recited the whole story with enthusiasm and intrigue! You felt as though you were right there with him as he told the story! It was quite thrilling!

3. In the very same room, on the very same stage, the next performance was of “The Black Cat”. This was equally as thrilling, but the energy about it was quite different! Derek Medina played the narrator, of the short. His performance scaled down the excitement and one couldn’t help but feel as though you were sitting one on one with the man who was telling this tale! His performance was engaging and, well -for lack of a better term- creepy! My favorite part about this whole experience happened the most in this crowd. I heard gasps throughout the audience when he confessed some of the most shocking, and gruesome, acts! You could tell that some were just *that* into the story, and that others had never heard it before! As a person who’s passion is sharing Mr. Poe with the world, I was SO happy to witness new fans being born! Mr. Medina’s performance really brought that about in people!

4. Next we went outside to “The Tell-Tale Heart”. This was a fun, and different experience. Since it was outside, they didn’t mind how many attended. So we ended up standing for it. The energy about the crowd was light and jovial. Kenneth R. Merckx, Jr. played the nutty narrator in this tale. And he played it well! His performance was fun! People even laughed at amusing moments, that many Poe actors do not highlight when they do this short. Mr. Poe did have a wicked sense of humor, and so it was nice to see an actor who got that. It was a very enjoyable experience!

5. We then moved on to a small room inside of the library that was on the complex, to watch “The Oval Portrait” and “The Raven”. This room was very poorly lit and the light of the cars that drove by really did take away from the ambiance that the actors were fighting so hard to keep! The first was “The Oval Portrait” which had Jane Jacobs as our narrator. In a different setting, I know I would have thoroughly enjoyed her performance! More often than not, I couldn’t see her facial features, which took away from the experience. She sounded great, and really put beautiful emotion into the piece. The next performance, in the same room, was “The Raven”. I personally did not care for this actor’s portrayal. However, my friends who were with me loved it! Jeffrey Paul Whitman acted out this poem more as a play than in rhythmic metre. He also played the narrator as a drunk. This is not in the poem at all, and this is the first time I have seen it played that way. Perhaps my own prejudice as a fan of this poem took away my ability to enjoy it in this manor. As I said, my friends enjoyed it very much. ๐Ÿ™‚

6. We then rushed through the building to get to “The Cask of Amontillado”. This was in a perfect room which had a small storage space in the back where the actors could…..well…..you know. A. Jeffrey Schoenberg and Michael Cabler played Montresor and Fortunato. This was another fun performance! Both actors brought these characters to life. They had a few props that were perfectly placed and used. The room was lit by candelabras which added to the eery atmosphere!

7. And lastly, we were able to see “The Masque of the Red Death”. I was VERY impressed with this performance! The room was lit by many small candles and the actress who played the narrator, stalked about the stage. This was the last performance of the evening (for all of the actors) but you wouldn’t have known it from the energy that Jodi Skeris put into it! Everyone was pulled into the story which she was telling. There were no props and no other actors. Just her and us. She played to the audience, keeping us all on the edge of our seats. It was magnificent!

I really enjoyed this night! These actors were all well trained and extremely entertaining! I just found out that they will be doing this again on October 24th at the L.A. Zoo! If you can attend, I HIGHLY recommend it! Here is a link for tickets : http://www.lazoo.org/nightofthelivingzoo/

I was so happy to see Mr. Poe’s works done so well! I hope to see this show again very soon.

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5 Comments

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5 responses to “Great Poe Theater Comes to Southern California! A review of “Drama After Dark -An Evening With Poe & Gorey”

  1. Lynda Martinez

    I’ve seen Drama After Dark perform at the Huntington Gardens for several years now and they are always excellent. I agree wholeheartedly with your review. I do recommend seeing their version of Gorey’s The Gashlycrumb Tinies of you can, it’s wonderful. As another California Poe fan, I look forward to your novel about Our Edgar!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. PoeBoy7

    Wow! Wish I’d been there! (And I can recite ‘The Gashlycrumb Tinies’ by heart, as I can many of Poe’s poems!) It sounds very inventive!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Edgar Allen Poe and Jodi

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