SALT LAKE CITY, Utah, May 29, 2016 (Gephardt Daily) — People alive today, more than 160 years after the death of Edgar Allen Poe, may know him best for “The Raven,” a spooky poem trotted out each Halloween.
To modern ears, “The Raven” can sound overwrought and over-rhymey, but Poe was an innovator in his time. Besides his poems, Poe wrote stories that literary scholars credit with inspiring detective stories and helping along the science fiction genre.
Salt Lake City’s Meat & Potatoes Theatre and director Tobin Adkinson are providing a fresh look at nine classic works by Poe in a show titled “con-tem-POE-rar-y.” Every scene tells a Poe story in a new way, whether by pantomime, puppetry, song, dance, or by the addition of a new setting that incorporates different nuances.
Only “The Raven” sticks to the original text, but adds a quirky lighting effect that results in towering shadows that menace both the character and the audience.
“The Cask of Amontilldo” moves the macabre story to the early ’90s, but retains the original themes of pride and revenge. “The Tell-Tale Heart” gets its point across, but with whimsy and eye-catching visuals.
The songs and dance numbers seem less effective in capturing the essence of Poe’s works, but do add variety and innovative choreography to the evening.
The most effective skits were the stories told with humor or pathos. And the most wrenching and beautiful portrayal of all was one that called for the ensemble members to manipulate an expressionless puppet.
To share any more details would be a disservice. Since Poe is familiar, the whole surprise in this show is in how director/adapter Tobin Atkinson found a new, creative way to tell the essence of each story.
The ensemble actors, Jeffrey Ingman, Rebecca Marcotte, Josh Thoemke and Raina Thornes, displayed a wide range of strengths playing diverse roles.
Some scenes were more powerful than others, but all are relatively short, so if one scene doesn’t especially speak to you, another will follow shortly.
And audience members walking out of the Rose Wagner’s Studio Theatre on opening night left with plenty of material for lively discussions.
“con-tem-POE-rary” plays at 2 p.m. Sundays, and 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, through June 12. There’s also a 2 p.m. matinee on June 6. Tickets are $20, and can be purchased through artsaltlake.org or by visiting the box office at the venue, the Rose Wagner Center, 138 W. 300 South, Salt Lake City.