Chicago Theater Review: ALL GIRL EDGAR ALLAN POE (The Chicago Mammals)

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by Barnaby Hughes on October 22, 2014

in Theater-Chicago

WHERE BLACK BOX EQUALS COFFIN

Just in time for Halloween, The Chicago Mammals are performing their All Girl Edgar Allan Poe. Apart from the original source material, most everything about this show is the work of women, from the adapting and directing, to the performing, staging and costuming. While the all-girl aspect showcases the variety of female creativity and what can be done with limited resources, the show doesn’t provide any unique insights into Poe’s work.

Liz Chase and Erin Orr in THE BLACK CAT, part of ALL GIRL EDGAR ALLAN POE. Photo by Bob Fisher.

Six one-act plays adapted from Poe’s poems or short stories, such as “The Black Cat” and “The Raven,” make up the intermissionless 90 minutes. Since most tend to be in monologue form, adaptation and staging requires a great deal of creativity. As might be expected, it’s a rather uneven lot. Overall, Mike Smith’s lighting and the uncredited sound design are two of the strongest features. And while the evening dwells on dark subjects—murder, madness, death—it is neither spooky nor frightening.

Hayley Rice, Amy Harmon, Sarah Koerner (understudy for Kathrynne Wolf), and Stefanie Johnsen in TELL TALE HEART, part of ALL GIRL EDGAR ALLAN POE. Photo by Bob Fisher.

Charlotte Drover’s adaptation and direction of “Pit and the Pendulum” is easily the most memorable of the lot. Much of it takes place in complete darkness, thereby giving the impression of a black abyss. It also plays with light and shadow by placing actresses behind a backlit screen. “The Tell Tale Heart,” adapted by M.E.H. Lewis and directed by Leigh Barrett, is the only play that seems to intend any humor. Amy E. Harmon plays the murderer with a light touch, challenging the audience to deem her mad. Her fatal stroke of the knife splatters blood across a screen in the show’s only slasher scene.

Sasha Warren in IMP OF THE PERVERSE, part of ALL GIRL EDGAR ALLAN POE. Photo by Bob Fisher.

Sasha Warren’s solo vehicle “Imp of the Perverse” is the least compelling. Most of her lengthy monologue is delivered sitting on a prison bench. What nearly saves her segment is the intriguing black-and-white stills and film clips flashing across the screen behind her. It’s not obvious, however, what, if any, connection there is between word and image. An entirely different approach is taken by Whitney LaMora’s direction of “Masque of the Red Death,” which is told entirely through music, dance, and costume, proving that words are unnecessary.

Moira Begale and Becky Blomgren in MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH, part of ALL GIRL EDGAR ALLAN POE. Photo by Bob Fisher.photos by Bob Fisher

All Girl Edgar Allan Poe
The Chicago Mammals
Zoo Studios, 4001 N Ravenswood
Fri and Sat at 8
Industry Night: Mon Nov. 3 at 8
scheduled to end on Nov. 8, 2014
tickets: Brown Paper Tickets
www.ChicagoMammals.com

for more info on Chicago Theater,
visit www.TheatreinChicago.com

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