Regional Reviews: Florida - Southern
Edgar & Emily
The improbable premise is that Edgar Allan Poe (Gregg Weiner) pays an unexpected visit to the bedroom of Emily Dickinson, carrying nothing but "his" coffin. The play is set in 1864 and, since Mr. Poe died 14 years earlier, one starts to wonder who, of the two is imagining this meeting. Poe is convinced that his doppelganger is out to kill him and begs Dickinson for refuge. She, middle-aged "spinster" that she is, is initially put off (to put it mildly) until they start reading each other's works for the other. To tell you more, especially about the ending, would be a spoiler, so I will just say that all does not end up well. Or does it?
This is a play that, thankfully, makes one think. William Hayes has directed the hour as though their were two different plays occurring concurrently. Margery Lowe is all 1800s style as Dickinson (just watch the way she works her dress!) and captures the character's lonelinessor is she lonesome? Gregg Weiner, as Poe, initially threw me. He has the laugh lines and was coming across as something of a Borsch Belt comedian until I realized that they both were relating to, literally, different eras. The two actors have worked multiple shows together in the past, which is apparent in their easy banter with each other and their respect for each other on stage.
Michael Amico, as always, has done a splendid representation of the Dickinson home, and Brian O'Keefe is spot on in his costumes for the duo. Paul Black's lighting is interesting. When Poe would speak of something with sadness or upset, the lighting "indicates" the mood by going quite dark. It took me a while to accept this "intrusion," but eventually it got me, as did the entire production.
I loved it. One example of the audience's enthusiasm was at the talk-back immediately after the matinee. Intelligent, deep questions of the actors and the veteran stage manager, Suzanne Clement Jones, elicited equally intelligent and humorous responses. With so much frivolity in theatre today, Edgar & Emily offers an exquisite option. The fact that it's "only" 65 minutes should not put people off. It's an investment in time you will surely appreciate and will be thinking about for days to come.
Edgar & Emily, through April 22nd, 2018, at Palm Beach Dramaworks, 201 Clematis Street, West Palm Beach FL. For tickets, please call 561-514-4042 or visit www.palmbeachdramaworks.org