Wednesday, November 03, 2010

The Madness of Edgar Allan Poe by David Rice

For nearly ten years, Bonnie and I have been attending outdoor productions of Shakespeare plays by First Folio at Mayslake Peabody Estate Forest Preserve in Oakbrook, Illinois. We have taken picnics and stayed for both the tragedies (Hamlet, MacBeth, Richard III) and the comedies (Twelfth Night, Much Ado About Nothing, Midsummer Night's Dream) under the stars. Despite sticky heat or evening cold, we have always enjoyed lively and imaginative performances. We go almost every summer.

Starting in 2004, First Folio moved into Mayslake Hall, the mansion/monastery that we had always viewed with curiosity. It took us several years to move with them, but in 2008 we saw the hilarious adaptation Jeeves Intervenes by P. G. Wodehouse, staged in the mansion's old library. We were a bit disappointed by Noel Coward's Design of Living in 2009 but loved Jeeves in Bloom in winter 2010. The latter play was staged in the mansion's chapel, a soaring space well suited for intimate theater.

So we were gung-ho to see First Folio's third staging of The Madness of Edgar Allan Poe by David Rice, one of the theater company's founders. We even managed to get tickets for Halloween Night. I was also excited to learn that each scene of the play was staged in a different room of the mansion. We were getting to join our love of theater with our hobby of touring old buildings.

The play lived up to its billing and my imagination. With morbid flare, the players acted out scenes both from Poe's life and from his poems and short stories. We were thrown into nearly total darkness in "The Pit and the Pendulum" and had the murderer right in our faces in "The Tell-Tale Heart." Diane Mair was as I would imagine the petite Virginia Poe, the tortured author's child bride. Understudy Michael Aguirre was a sympathetic yet disturbing Poe.

I'd like to go again.

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