This one’s from the boyfriend — I was being tempted by the devil (and the Pabst) …

The Tell-Tale Heart and the Mind of Poe
The Scientarium

Remaining Performances:
Sunday, July 29, 6 pm

They say: “An exciting environmental theatre piece which incorporates live percussion and ambient sound in the telling of some of Edgar Allan Poe’s most famous stories and poems. Enter into ‘the mind of Poe’ as The Endstation Theatre Company of Central Virginia takes you on a thrilling theatrical journey.”

Keith’s take: Sometimes it’s more effective — more menacing, more threatening — to be quiet than it is to be loud. Look, for example, at some of the creepiest performances from actors who have burned themselves into our collective consciousness as guys you don’t want to run into on a country road at night: Jack Nicholson, Anthony Hopkins, Christopher Walken (well, OK, not in his latest outing, but in some of his more menacing roles).

As a piece of environmental theater, which is how it’s being publicized, Tell-Tale Heart is completely successful. Indeed, if you didn’t know that CapFringe’s show-venue pairing process involved a certain amount of randomness, it would be tempting to think that the performance space in the Scientarium was specifically built to create the world of this play, protecting the audience from the inmates — er, the performers. The space is even aptly named: Scientarium/Sanitarium … And the performers — particularly when they’re cowering silently in corners, crannies, and cupboards, or when they crouch wordlessly obsessed with their own thoughts or ticks — create an atmosphere that might very well be like the one where Poe’s protagonists would have ended up.

The problem comes with the delivery of Poe’s texts themselves. Perhaps in an effort to illustrate the author’s progression toward madness, each tale starts with some intensity and builds pretty quickly to a fevered pitch, resulting in a fairly shallow arc for each. Likewise, the percussive effects — whether being produced by actual or improvised instruments, or by the banging of cupboard doors — would be more effective if used with more moderation and modulation. The upper end of the energy and volume spectrums are covered, but the company doesn’t seem interested in what might emerge if the lower and more contained ranges were explored. I’m guessing, given that it’s a pretty uniform problem, that it’s less a lack of ability than a perplexing directorial choice.

See it if: You have an affinity for Poe and want to see some of his texts exuberantly performed in an appropriate environment.

Skip it if: You’re bored (or annoyed) by sustained car chases, shouting matches, or continually slamming doors and noise.

P.S. According to IMDb, Christopher Walken has read “The Raven” for an audio book. I’ll be looking for that.