Reviewed by Kathleen Kirby
Clio Cast & Crew opened their 2017-2018 season Friday with Poe’s Midnight Dreary, a show surely chosen for its supposedly spooky overtones. Written by Richard McElvain, the play consists of vignettes from the works of Edgar Allen Poe and even features the poet as narrator.
Christopher Dinnan plays the role of Poe who is ostensibly dying in a Baltimore hospital. He repeatedly arises to live out his musings about various works he has written – living each of them as if for the first time. Dinnan is effective in this role. His facial expressions are impressive even when he is only observing.
If you are a Poe aficionado, you will recognize the scenes that reflect the “The Tell-Tale Heart”, “The Black Cat”, and “The Raven”. (Speaking of that crow, the ending has a potentially terrific representation of the raven at Poe’s death played in an amazing costume by Brett Beach.) Other works featured include “Annabel Lee”, “The Fall of the House of Usher”, and “The Premature Burial” with an aside nod to “The Cask of Amontillado”.
Although a young cast, a few merit mention. Cassidy Couturier was interesting in the role of Bertram. Short of stature, she still managed to exude the evil nature of the character’s intent.
Kaity Honnen played a variety of feminine roles well but with little delineation between the characters. Preston Sannicolas managed to be the bad guy most of the time with his portrayals of the Banker and Roderick. Also, Rochelle Dula was intriguing as the Cat with her feline gyrations, yowls and hisses.
This script seems to aim at a youthful audience, so the casting of many youngsters was appropriate. Director Shane Wachowicz may have needed to rehearse them a bit more to achieve the desired impact. Many of them made up the chorus of monks and other shrouded figures. They were often called upon to speak in unison in response to Poe and to echo things said. This technique can be very impressive done correctly. Instead, this aspect seemed under rehearsed so that their sound and diction was ragged.
Wachowicz employed a two-story set often used at Clio that affords multiple exits and entrances. He used them to advantage throughout the show. Poe’s deathbed is rolled in when he needs to make comments from there and is then rolled out again. (We wonder if a stationary hospital setting that Poe could go to and from might have been more subtle and less distracting.)
Overall, the spookiness factor fell victim to bright lights and a certain lack of definition between vignettes. This isn’t your usual plotted play that begins, transpires, and then ends. Instead it transitions between stories, often assuming the audience’s familiarity with Poe’s work, which, if present, would enhance the scare quality.
We applaud CCC for their willingness to take on a show like this – it is certainly an appropriate one for October with its potentially scary characters, murder and mayhem!
Poe’s Midnight Dreary continues at Clio Cast & Crew’s Theatre 57, 2220 W. Vienna Rd, Clio on October 7, 13, 14 at 7:30 pm and October 8 & 15 at 2:30 pm. For tickets and more information contact the box office at 810-687-2588 or online at www.cliocastandcrew.com