The Mesmeric Revelations! of Edgar Allan Poe – Stark Raven Mad
Well, guys, The Mesmeric Revelations! of Edgar Allan Poe turns out to be just as crazysexicool as you think it’s going to be and that’s saying something, since the show has been sold out forever and even the extension is getting verrry limited. What’s the buzz? I’ll tell ya what’s a’happenin’. Revelations! is like going to a haunted house run by everybody’s favorite “cool” AP English teacher (you know, the one with the husband who works at The Victorian Trading Company). I’m not trying to imply that the show is amateurish, because it isn’t, not at all. What it is, in fact, is fucking impressive. It bills itself as “immersive” theater and that’s for fucking sure. What “immersive” means is two things: you have to be in the mood and you have to let go of any expectation of a coherent narrative. Staged in the old Enoch Pratt house on Monument and Park (which is a huge score as the house itself is a star player here – the show would have packed a lot less whoop if it was, for instance, forced into a multipurpose room in a church basement) the “play” is a series of loosely, loosely, loosely tied together set pieces that happen in different rooms at different times. It’s the sort of thing that you could probably go to fifty times and not see it all. We’re warned of this beforehand in a rather nervous infodump (we’ve already been told to come sober and wear good walking shows, solid advice because you will be on your feet for two hours but there are chairs everywhere and nobody likes a whiner) where we are also told that there is no talking. We’re ushered into a dark hallway where the conceit is set: we are inhabiting the mesmeric trance of Edgar Allan Poe. Groovy. Specters from Poe’s life start flying around, ghosts from the nether realm, at first tentatively then amping up as we get to move around the house exploring. The goddamned detail is incredible. From the scenic design by Kel Millionie to the props by Ursula Marcum to the costumes by Stephanie Parks, it’s a rowdy gothic eyefest and the actors are a living cabinet of curiosities. We have no idea what they’re doing, but it’s all deliciously creepy with wide spooky eyes and totally committed aspects. As I said, if you can’t turn your monkeybrain off and go with the flow, it won’t be as fun, but just get into it. There are possessed women falling down stairs and strange visitors at the door and creaks everywhere and communing with the dead. You could well be asked to help Eliza (Jenna Rossman) on with her dressing gown or find Auguste, the detective, (Alexander Scally) yelling at you for failing to read broken clock or Sarah (Shannon Graham) sitting you down for an impromptu seance. You could be dragged from room to room by Virginia (Natanya Washer) to hide behind the drapes or asked to examine birdcages or listen to increasingly deranged forensics lectures or take part in a hellish dance party or to do or see probably another million things I didn’t catch. I promise you that this is not as twee as I’m making it sound. If it all seems like too much style without substance, well, that’s totally appropriate for Edgar Allan Poe, right? I mean, come on, national treasure and all that, but pretty dead women are neither rare nor particularly deep. In fact, the reason people like Poe is for atmosphere, not plot, silly, and an abundance of chilly atmosphere is what we’ve got here. It’s conception on top of conception on top of what were probably hours and hours of rehearsal time to make it work (proppppps to directors Glenn Ricci and Susan Stroupe, this can’t have been easy). And it’s all just so…awesome. The literal heartbeat of the proceedings is the soundtrack composed and recorded by Glenn Ricci. I honestly think this is what makes the show happen. The old house moans and shakes with the thumpy bumpy screams of trance electronic Halloween sounds and it rushes the blood and raises the pulse. Additionally, the actors are clearly cuing off of the soundtrack which keeps everything moving and urgent and that urgency is incredibly fun.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The Mesmeric Revelations! of Edgar Allan Poe is a wildly bold and feverishly imaginative spiritual sojourn the like I’ve never seen in Baltimore before. I was twitching like a gutter cat in a fishdumpster, I loved it so. Just exploring the house is worth the price of admission (though maybe Edgar would have approved of the goings on but I somehow doubt that ol’ Enoch would be as chill with it). If you’ve snagged a ticket already, you’re a fortunate son. If not, buy it now or you’ll have to bribe the redhead at the door, something I myself have, unfortunately, never had much luck with. It’s the nevermost.
Running at The Enoch Pratt House until May 16th
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