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Poe & All That Jazz Harman Center – The Forum

Remaining performances: Saturday, July 19 @ Noon; Sunday, July 20 @ 8 PM

They say: “Helen Hayes Award-winning playwright Peter Coy explores undercurrents of abandonment in Poe’s tragic personal life, thinly veiled in art. Horrifying and humorous, ‘a delicious, confusing, delicate, sensual delight’; jazz, ghosts, poetry and song. A phantasmagoric ‘dream within a dream – none of this is real’ but it’s all true.”

Tabitha’s take: I don’t know if I should write a review or a term paper, but I was an English major, so it’s a happy conundrum. This is a little gem of a show. The concept of pairing standards with classics isn’t new, but Porter and Poe? Really? Well, yes. The songs are like punctuation marks, resulting from and driving the action while offering sly commentary.

What’s more, Poe is funny. Not all the time. If you want creepy Poe, you’ll get him, but the power of this piece is its emotional exploration. Here Poe is more than than a hollow-eyed tortured soul. He’s pitiful, pained, ebullient, cocky, angry, thoughtful – pretty human, actually. As Poe, Jon Cobb is riveting as he takes the audience through stories, poems, letters, and dreams. Equally mesmerizing is Patti Finn, who is the vocal part of all the jazz and plays the women in Poe’s life and work. They are aided flawlessly by Bob Bennetta on piano and Jim Ryan on bass. Together, the ensemble is thoroughly entertaining.

The play deliberately blurs the lines between dream and reality by transitioning invisibly from Poe’s life to his stories, so there may be a few confusing moments until you remember that no, Poe did not bury an ax in his wife’s head and build a brick wall around her, but that’s part of the fun.

I want to own, read, and mull this play. Oh, the discussions we could have about genius and madness, the school of psychological criticism, the layers of meanings behind the doll used in the production, and yes, there’s more, but I guess I’ll save it for the term paper.

See it if: You know a lot about Poe, or want to know more about Poe; heck, see it if you can spell Poe.

Skip it if: Thinking gives your brain an ouchie.