"The Homo Poe Show" at the Theatre Project | WYPR

"The Homo Poe Show" at the Theatre Project

Mar 31, 2014

Tony Byrd (left) and Alec Weinberg (right) perform "Do You Mark Me Well?"
Credit Zachary Handler

  Looking at Edgar Allen Poe's work through a LGBT lens. Maryland Morning theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck brings us her review of Iron Crow Theatre Company's production of "The Homo Poe Show" at the Theatre Project.

The production continues through April 5. "The Homo Poe Show" contains nudity, adult themes and language.

The Rousuck Review: "The Homo Poe Show" 

Okay, let’s get this out of the way. I’ve never come across anything suggesting that Edgar Allan Poe was gay. And, that’s not what “The Homo Poe Show” is about.

It’s Poe’s sensibility, not his sexual orientation, that informs the current show at the Theatre Project. In particular, Poe’s outsider perspective on lost love becomes a recurring theme in this production created by Baltimore’s LGBT company, Iron Crow Theatre. As artistic director Steven J. Satta explains in a program note – quote -- “Poe’s radical vision and unique perspective make him queer already.”

Satta commissioned several writers and choreographers to create short pieces inspired by Poe’s work. 

Megan Gogerty calls her clever short play, “Super-Hot Raven.” A poet returns to her apartment to find a handywoman repairing her radiator. The poet writes blank verse about her ex-, Lenore. The handywoman wears a Baltimore Ravens T-shirt and abruptly informs the poet: “I like poems that rhyme.” Meggie Twible plays the defensive poet; Madeline Hicks plays the smart-alecky handywoman, who, apparently, does not plan to leave.

In Rich Espey’s imaginative contribution, “The Trick,” the playwright replaces the name “Annabel Lee” with “Timothy” and also includes references to Poe’s “The Cask of Amontillado” and “Eldorado.” The most inventive touch is a character that represents Time -- an aerialist, hovering nearby, throwing her weight around, ultimately unstoppable. Jenna Rossman brings lots of attitude to her portrayal of this audacious, outspoken character. 

Artistic director Satta himself wrote the last of the scripted pieces, stemming from an ensemble process. “Grieving and Sequins” is inspired by Poe’s “The Masque of the Red Death,” although it has a far more upbeat ending. Nick Horan plays a man mourning his recently deceased partner. He’s tormented by a character portrayed by Alec Weinberg, shrouded in a hoody and suspended in an aerial hoop. This Figure embodies the mourner’s obsessions -- infection, disease and death.

A man haunted by a lost love also forms the basis for Daniel Talbott’s poetic short play, “Thomas.” Poe’s story, “Eleonora,” is his inspiration, but Talbott throws in an unfortunate, gratuitous plot point that goes beyond even Poe’s level of creepiness and detracts from the poignancy that’s come before.

The evening also includes three largely wordless pieces. Mara Neimanis’ aerial piece inspired by “The Pit and the Pendulum” and performed with – and on -- an immense hanging arrow comes closest to Poe. Choreographer Tony Byrd’s “Do You Mark Me Well?” is a moving, beautifully performed pas de deux. But beyond the title -- a line from “The Tell-Tale Heart” -- the connection to Poe is loose, at best.

“The Homo Poe Show” isn’t the first time Poe’s been re-envisioned from a gay and lesbian viewpoint. An anthology published last year took a similar approach.

-J. Wynn Rousuck

Audio for this segment will be posted by the end of the day.