Two comments left on Washington Post article “Fringe Must-sees”, by Stephanie Merry | July 11, 2008; 12:46 PM ET

(A list of seven suggested shows, including:
…Peter Coy, a Helen Hayes Award winner, brings us “Poe and All the Jazz,” which explores the tortured life, visions and poetry of Edgar Allen Poe.)

I went to see this piece based on the recommendations from the Fringe aficionados who said “Poe and All that Jazz” promised to be one of the ‘must see” Fringe offerings.

And fulfill that promise it does!

Helen Hayes Award winning playwright, Peter Coy, also directs this production from his Hamner Theater in Nellysford, VA-outside of Charlottesville. His craft, blending what must have been intricate research is clear.

Can art be considered without context? Poe asks and answers this question stating that ‘it matter’s not the condition of the poet’, but Mr. Coy’s work sensitively proves otherwise.

Two remarkable young actors flesh out the tortured life, art and psyche of Edgar A. Poe. The production features a masterful jazz combo and unconventional direction to weave 90 minutes of clowning theatrics, psychological drama, dry humor, jazz standards, and raw sexuality.

It is a dream? Is it hell? Is it his life passing before his eyes? Who cares! It is fantastic!

Jon Cobb, as Poe, embodies the iconic poet and successfully illuminates the development of Poe’s personal life’s effect on his artistic work. The mental and physical gymnastics of this role and his execution of this task is top drawer.

His portrayal is so authentically human and clearly links Poe’s loss of his parents as fundamental to the development of his character and the art work he produced. Heroically, Mr. Cobb bypasses the obvious trap to merely represent Poe as a Vincent Price-ish ghoul. Any fan of the poet will be thrilled as Mr. Cobb leaves you thinking…and laughing…an even maybe a little misty about the permeable boundary between the man and his art.

Patti Finn seems to effortlessly navigate an endless array of women from his life and work. She is captivating and skillful in a uniquely demanding role-a role to which she is so well suited I have to wonder if it was written for her! Ms. Finn manages eight fully realized characters–sometimes shifting from one to another within a breath, or with as little as a turn of a head or a gesture of the hand.

As if that is not enough, Ms. Finn, as Eliza, Poe’s mother who apparently was a well-known actress back in the day, also tears up the stage as a torch singer, knocking out a host of jazz standards that are intricated into the action. A old-school jazz duo, Bob Bennetta, piano and Jim Meyer, double bass, really bring to life this unusual, yet wierdly logical musical connection between Poe and jazz.

No matter how you think you feel about Poe, you will find this work identifies the untold influences on his work, uniquely explores the psychology of attachment/loss and illuminates the enduring work of a tortured genius.

I think it absolutely lives up to the buzz. It is at once delightfully funny, poignant, shocking, and macabre.

It is clearly, a must-see of the Festival.

Posted by: Julie Bonner | July 14, 2008 7:49 PM | Report abuse

A truly remarkable performance all around. I am by no means a Poe aficionado however this script really entertains. I found myself having to go home and read up on some Poe to clarify the excellently blurred lines of Poe’s life, letters and writings but it was well worth it. The highlight of the show was definitely the synthesis of Poe’s poetry and jazz classic. The alternating poetic lines with timed musical lines was masterfully handled by Bennetta & Ryan which is by no means an easy feat.

Both performers managed to translate every emotion of Poe’s life/stories without the often obvious transitional character gaps found in stage theater. Both performed amazingly the eerie, witty, love-torn, nuances needed to pull off such a unique piece.

Bennetta and Ryan’s touch and depth of musical talent added tremendously to the overall experience. Quite obviously the performance hinged on the succesful integration of music into the whole and their sensitively adept performance was sublime – Never overbearing always enhancing.

note* Unfortunately for any performers in the venue of the Harman Center Forum room, your are most likely to be forced to listen to the only slightly muted sounds of the neighboring amateur opera. Its sad that this brand new (and otherwise wonderful facility) was not able to appropriately deal with acoustics between performance rooms.

Posted by: Marvin | July 21, 2008 10:32 AM | Report abuse