Fort Fringe – The Shop

Remaining Performances:

Wednesday, July 24, 7 p.m.
Thursday, July 25, 10:15 p.m.
Saturday, July 27, 10:45 p.m.

They say: “A car crash survivor discovers a strange connection to the woman whose blood now runs through his veins. Now he’s on a dangerous mission to save her in this thrilling and magical riff on Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart.”

Alexis’ Take: Normally, I’m all for suspension of disbelief, but Hunter Styles’ script features so much out-loud exposition—so much tell-taling—about what the characters are thinking, doing, feeling at all times (“And now I’m going here, and now I’m wondering this, etc.”) that I just wanted to press mute button sometimes and suspend the dialogue.

Granted, when it comes to the plot of this Grain of Sand Theatre production, more exposition might not be a bad thing. Tell-Tale is less a riff on Baltimore’s Lauded Lush of Laudanum (Edgar Allan Poe’s professional wrestling name) and more a mesh of more recent pop culture vampire lore, with elements that recall Buffy the Vampire Slayer and True Blood. Something about how a woman has magical blood that can bring people back from the brink of death, though at the expense of her sanity and well-being. Why? Because she can see/feel those whom she’s saved. I mean, isn’t that how Bill and Sookie hooked up in the first place? (Incidentally, most of the people she has saved seem to be stereotypes, like a loud, obnoxious New Yorker.)

One glaring problem is Tell-Tale’s lead female character, Charlie, a “newswoman” who is married to lead male character, Logan, who is laid up recovering from a mysterious heart operation. She treats this less as something that affects the man she loves and more as something she needs to get the big scoop on.

On a personal level, I’d like to request a moratorium on writers portraying journalists, particularly women journalists, as bloodsucking (if you will!) narcissists so obsessed with breaking stories that they will do anything, no matter how harmful or disastrous it is to their family, or to their sources, or to the world at large, even.

This is just not the case for most hard-working journalists, especially investigative reporters, who for the most part do really courageous, smart work for minimal pay. (Art critics, on the other hand, are generally a dastardly bunch).

Perhaps my impression of Charlie might have been different with a stronger lead actress portraying her. Someone capable of conveying more than a couple emotional extremes. But, alas, Amal Saade mostly fluctuates between a manic state of cheerfulness (“Love’s a motherfucker!” comes out more like, “Let’s get cupcakes!”) and extreme panic/alarm/shoutiness.

But back to the journalism thing. When she says talks vaguely about a friend was “reporting on East Africa” about a “rebel faction” or about how how it was her “civil duty” to write a “whistleblower” article (we never really figure out what exactly it is that she writes about), I squirmed for a fact-checker. Just a little Google research will do to give this more substance.

A couple fine performances, notably Matthew Ward as the glassy but empathetic Logan and John Stange as an unethical doctor (who managed to squeeze some of the only laughs), plus some creative “cubist” staging by director Carl Brandt Long, help to keep Tell-Tale‘s pulse from stopping altogether.

A Treatise on Why You Should Probably Just Read Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart”:
Here’s the thing. I went back and read the original material before attending, even though it turns out I in no way needed to. But the point is, you all should read it. It hooks you right from the first bone-chilling paragraph, in which our unreliable narrator explains why he killed an old man.

You see, he didn’t hate the old man he killed. And he didn’t really want his money either… Think about what the creepiest possible explanation would be.

Here goes: It was the old man’s EYE that provoked it.

“He had the eye of a vulture—-a pale blue eye, with a film over it. Whenever it fell upon me, my blood ran cold; and so by degrees —very gradually—-I made up my mind to take the life of the old man, and thus rid myself of the eye forever.”

WHAAAT? That is some messed up Salvador Dali/Luis Bunuel shit right there. If you still need convincing on how twisted this story is, here’s a kickass animation with James “Captain Nemoy” Mason to narrate it for you.