One-man Poe

An Evening With Edgar Allan Poe

By Katherine Ashe
Montauk Theatre Productions
Shooting Star Theatre
40 Peck Slip, in the South Street Seaport (791-STAR)
Equity showcase (closes June 28)
Review by Elias Stimac

A one-man show based on the life of the famous writer, An Evening With Edgar Allan Poe by Katherine Ashe is a sometimes compelling, sometimes cryptic look at a complex man.

Presented by Montauk Theatre Productions at the very intimate Shooting Star Theatre, it is part of the "Seaport to Seaport" Festival. Audience members are reminded that Poe spent some time in this area, giving the performance extra resonance.

Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849) is credited as being "the inventor of both the mystery story and the science fiction genres." He was also a poet, editor, and critic. Ashe's hour-long play attempts to shed some light on the mysteries of Poe's own life, and in the process provides a lot of facts (and perhaps a few fragments of fiction) from his well-documented biography. Poe lost his caring mother at an early age, and loses his beloved child bride at an equally young age -- events that had a major effect on his writing, on his career, and particularly on his emotional well-being. Ashe chronicles these relationships well, but doesn't completely fill in her portrait of the man. An abrupt ending only underscores the need for a more fleshed-out script.

As the writer, actor Dana Watkins delivered a calm, collected, and at times charming portrayal. It is an unexpected approach -- when he entered, Watkins as Poe seemed surprisingly friendly. He went on to recount the pleasures and pains of growing up Poe in a straightforward narrative, every so often reciting poetic pieces and short stories from the author's works. Watkins did not employ a wide range of emotions during his delivery (possibly related to the fact that no director is credited in the program), which resulted in a rather flat performance. Only during the final recital of the famous poem "Annabel Lee" did he spring to life, a mournful man reliving his altogether brief time with a once-in-a-lifetime love. It was in these last moments that Watkins truly displayed a connection with the tormented character he was embodying.

The setting was minimal, starkly lit by Marc Castelli, who also provided the sound design. The uncredited costume was suitable for the period.

Box Score:

Writing: 1
Directing: 1
Acting: 1
Sets: 0
Costumes: 1
Lighting/Sound: 1

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Copyright 2002 Elias Stimac