Consumed by Poe | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Consumed by Poe 

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Consumed by Poe, Hi-Volt Theatre Company, at the Performance Loft. This deliberately disjointed compilation of seven stories by Edgar Allan Poe fragments each into bits that are consecutive but not contiguous. This clumsy treatment loses momentum and turns Poe dull--an unpardonable sin.

Included are the well-known paranoid fantasies "The Black Cat" and "The Tell-Tale Heart" (tales so similar they expose Poe's monomania), the obsessive "William Wilson" and "Morella," the revenge thriller "Cask of Amontillado" (with its devilish double meanings), the sadomasochistic "The Pit and the Pendulum," and "The Man That Was Used Up"--a silly, almost Dickensian curiosity that requires a plethora of prosthetic devices. Because Poe's effects are brought about by the full use of the imagination, half measures like bare bulbs and cartoon props are worse than none at all: the menace of the pendulum can't be captured by a swinging red light and stuffed rats on wires. At least Sean Sinitski's macabre sound design creates the right atmosphere.

Arlo Bryan Guthrie's staging wavers between the campy and the creepy, each undercutting the other. Motivated by little more than their cues, the nine ensemble members rush from tale to tale, trying to make up in energy what's lost in continuity. They toss this theatrical salad for all it's worth, but the result is poor man's Poe without one moment of genuine terror.

--Lawrence Bommer

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