Jump the Train: Ride Light with Edgar Allan Poe

Photo courtesy of Philadelphia Live Arts Festival & Philly Fringe.

How far would you be willing to go to express your creative passion? Would you dangle from the rafters suspended by nothing more than a bedsheet? Would you scale precarious stacks of furniture shifting position across a wooden stage?

Answer: As far as it takes, at least for the no-holds-barred cast of Red-Eye to Havre de Grace, who choreograph their way through fourth wall-defying chase scenes that triple-dog-dare the laws of physics. The same is true of its subject, Edgar Allan Poe, who continues to be remembered as much for his contributions to macabre literature as for the fits of madness that plagued his life.

The play, the product of Lucidity Suitcase Intercontinental and The Wilhelm Brothers, travels through the lecture tour Poe took shortly before his still-unexplained death: a series of train rides and brain rides slipping back and forth between the east coast and Poe’s subconscious state. The players have more fun with props than Salvador Dalí, as the minimal set relies upon the shifting dimensions of a door and a suitcase to map out the geometries of scene change, outlining a landscape that juggles the flatness of an animation cell with the skewed perspective of an Escher painting.

The clever interplay between cast members Jeremy Wilhelm (Singer) and Ean Sheeny (E.A. Poe) almost slips safely into a space between musical road trip and dark comedy, but dancer Sophie Bortolussi, as Poe’s deceased but not dismissed wife and cousin Virginia, steers the play into a far more serious (and seriously creepy) realm of tragedy. She bends and slips her way in and out of sight as effortlessly as Sheeny dances back and forth from madness to questionable sanity.

Both guilty pleasure and captivating conundrum, Red-Eye to Havre de Grace explores the celebrity and genius of Poe at the Suzanne Roberts Theatre now through September 16.

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