Red-Eye to Havre Grace: E.A.Poe at Live Arts Fest

Red-Eye to Havre de Grace, Lucidity Suitcase Intercontinental + The Wilhelm Bros & Co. Direction and Stage Design: Thaddeus Phillips; Original Score: Wilhelm Bros. Live Arts Festival, Philadelphia, Suzanne Roberts Theatre, Sept 7-16, 2012.

He thought he was going home to New York but Edgar Allen Poe was on the wrong train heading south: a conductor put him off in Baltimore where his death there days later still remains a mystery. Rather fitting for our genius of the ghost and detective genres and so much else. Red-Eye to Havre Grace by Lucidity Suitcase Intercontinental with the Wilhelm Bros. & Co. is the delight you hope for at the Philadelphia Live Arts Festival. Hard to categorize this imaginative movement/theater/opera which puts a new spin on Poe’s last lecture tour, his daily obsessions. He was calmer at home than on the road, collaborators Thaddeus Phillips, Geoff Sobel and the Minneapolis- based Wilhelms, Jeremy and David, show in this literally non-stop journey through the writer/poet/critic/genius’s attempt to deal with his last work, “Eureka,” his urgent letters home to his mother- in- law/slash aunt “Muddy,” and the hauntings by his child-bride wife, Virginia whose acrobatic affections are delicious.  Red-Eye is poignant and funny and the music- and- movement theater aspects are thrilling. The cast climbs over- under- and- even through a series of doors that function as train compartments, tables, beds and more. Ranger Steve of Philly’s Spring Garden Poe House narrates this imaginary Poe tale. He’s played by the multi-gifted, Jeremy Wilhelm whose operatic voice bursts into Poe lyrics when he’s not playing a mean clarinet accompaniment  to Ean Sheeny as the human and convincing E. A. Poe. There are several surprise moments none so good as Sophie Bortolussi’s first appearance as the ghost wife, which I dare not spoil. Red-Eye to Havre Grace credits Teller for its illusions, and Poe’s death scene is a triumph. Wilhelms’s original score includes the group playing bowed piano:  so spooky George Crumb would approve. Red-Eye to Havre Grace ended Sunday but it should play again and again.

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