"Men have called me mad; but the question is not yet settled, whether madness is or is not the loftiest intelligence – whether much that is glorious – whether all that is profound – does not spring from disease of thought – from moods of mind exalted at the expense of the general intellect." Poet Edgar Allen Poe
Just in time for the Halloween season, playwright Eric Coble and Spencer Theatre will take audiences on the haunting journey through the twists and turns of Poe's mind in an eerie production that promises to tingle your spine and quicken a few hearts.
Nightfall, directed by John Sivak, is a 90-minute one-act, four-scene play that presents some of the poet's most well-known and macabre works: The Raven, The Fall of the House of Usher, The Pit and the Pendulum, and The Tell-Tale Heart. It asks the audience to judge for themselves whether Poe is mad or not. Or even...what is madness? Poet, writer, editor and literary critic Edgar Allan Poe was born in Boston in 1809. He was a master of mystery, psychological terror and gothic horror. And you can find all of them at the Hoogland Center for the Arts this weekend, with a bit of fun added in.
The cast includes Michael S. Krcil (as Poe), Michael Clair (Roderick Usher), Brandon Davis (Edgar), Kristin Wheeler (Madeline Usher), Avi McDaniel (Raven), Elise Willow (Sante), Terry Schoppenhorst (Old Man), Jeff Guy (Policeman #1) and Eden Lyons (Policeman #2). Lights and scenic design set an atmospheric, gothic mood, awash in grey, red and black, with plenty of pitch-black moments. Hair and makeup design by Jessica Kent assisted by Erica Metzger is impressively ghoulish with a spot-on depiction of Edgar Allan Poe and cast members in sallow faces and dark features.
The production is also hosting "The Poe Experience," a reception held in conjunction with each performance featuring Poe-themed cocktails, a macabre exhibit by the Sangamon Watercolor Society, a photo station designed by the Boo Crew Haunted House, and special guests/vendors, including Troy Taylor, author of the Poe biography Nevermore, on opening night. Attendees are encouraged to dress in Poe-inspired attire or costumes and register to win a special Poe Package after each show.
As I watched a bit of a rehearsal this week, I was reminded of how, as a child, I was first introduced to the works of Edgar Allan Poe through actor Vincent Price. An ardent fan himself, he often collaborated with B-movie master Roger Corman, who created lavish, opulent horror films that plumbed the complex depths of depraved characters' minds. With Price's unmatched ability to perform the macabre pieces with his signature voice and dark humor, along with Corman's artistically horrific touches, these films fostered an early appreciation for all things that go bump in the night. A similar appreciation might befall you, if you dare to attend Nightfall.
The show runs Oct. 12 and 13 at 8 p.m. and Oct. 14 at 3 and 8 p.m. in the Peggy Ryder Theatre and the Hoogland Center for the Arts, with a student performance at UIS Performing Arts Center on Oct. 16 as part of the Class Act series. For tickets visit https://www.hcfta.org/tickets.
Mary Young was born and raised in Springfield has been performing in, producing and directing live theater for decades. She's done film and voice-over work, performs occasionally with local bands and misses making up funny stuff with improv troupe The Portuguese Rodeo Clown Company.