The Raven and Six Other Points of Interest | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

The Raven and Six Other Points of Interest 

Excaliber Shakespeare Company, at Di Falco Gallery.

If the Ripley's Believe It or Not museum in Old Town were still open, Excaliber director and actor Darryl Maximilian Robinson would probably get his own wing. He's the kind of deliciously melodramatic elocutionist who disappeared about a century ago, after doing declamatory readings of "the classics" on every vaudeville stage and in every state fair tent in the northern hemisphere. Performing selected works of Edgar Allan Poe in The Raven and Six Other Points of Interest, Robinson has got it all down pat: the clipped diction, the grand gestures (he doesn't sit down, he swoops down), the quivering, orotund voice drenched in a Barrymore-esque accent, even the full-length purple smoking jacket. Yet his chocolate-brown skin, bald head, and dancerly grace add an unexpected sensuality to his persona. If Alistaire Cooke had given birth to Isaac Hayes's son, he would have turned out an awful lot like Robinson.

This show, unfortunately, is a bit of a mess, mostly because the supporting cast seem like sodden matchbooks next to Robinson's flaming fullness (the exception is Kathy Martin, whose recital of "The Tell-Tale Heart" as a distraught southern belle's confession to a hard-nosed gumshoe is surprisingly effective). Robinson does have the unique ability to render a poem as familiar as "The Raven" almost meaningless, but then no one expects the Spider Lady or the Man With Two Faces to make sense. Sometimes just being the genuine article is enough.

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