Poe, Poe and more Poe. Edgar Allan everywhere, all over the Joslyn Castle and Shelterskeltering at the Shelterbelt, both lacking only the rasping caw of a raven to give them the full gothic atmosphere.
And Scott Working’s Tales of Poe, a Metro Community College creation in league with the Castle, came complete with an ominous, open-beaked raven hovering over the castle turrets, courtesy of a poster by Midwest Photo Pro.
But, alas, my restless wanderings swept me down the hill from Sarah Joslyn’s grand mansion to the dark confines below California Tacos where nine playlets awaited, each more or much less linked to the ill-fated Poe. In short, I saw Shelterskelter XVII, a production accompanied by two asterisked warnings.
First, “There may be loud and sudden noises associated with this production.” Second, “Any smoking products used on stage are non-tobacco in nature and are in compliance with all…ordinances.”
Some of the noises came from the couple sitting next to us who often laughed explosively, and I was inclined to more quietly share their mirth. Perhaps the funniest play, Two Out of Five by Jonas Oppenheim, deserved five stars of the sort awarded by a hilarious Andy Neiss as the main character, a blogger pretentiously reviewing his night on the town.
Andy added the comic highlight of the second act as well, when he played a congenial vampire named Arthur whose blood-sucking nature lurks behind a clipboard used to petition in favor of legalizing hemp. But the fun starts at the very beginning when Mary Beth Slater negotiates with Sarah Planck as Death.
They team again later in a foggy bayou with Planck in long red tresses and costume hosting Slater as a troubled runaway. Both women are far more convincing than the gimmicky twist supplied by the script.
If Neiss dominated the lighter side, veteran actor David Sindelar handled more of the heavier horror. He was subtly sinister in The Monster Seated Next to Me as he chastised a foul-mouthed girl done delightfully by Steffany Urban. They nicely overcame the handicap of not sitting anywhere close to “next to me,” and the fact that it wasn’t at all apparent that they were supposed to be on a subway.
Sindelar shined in just plain Monster where his character, haunted by his victim (Matt Karasek) dissolves under the weight of guilt for a lethal crime. And he is very scary as the undertaker talking Devel Crisp into a casket, with the help of one of those non-tobacco smoking products and the title’s Corpse Wine.
Cold Cream looks at theater in the metro area. Email information to firstname.lastname@example.org.