A National Park Service ranger is an unlikely guide to the life of Edgar Allan Poe. But Red-Eye to Havre de Grace imagines plenty of surprises for the Gothic genius on a mind-bending whistle-stop tour through his last days.
After Ranger Steve (Jeremy Wilhelm) from the Poe National Historic Site fills in some biographical material, the show takes the fast track into Poe’s deteriorating mental state. A haunting pas de deux ensues between Ean Sheehy (a convincing Poe look-alike) and Alessandra L. Larson as the author’s famously dead wife, Virginia. Like a mischievous succubus, Poe’s muse pursues him relentlessly, wrapping herself around his shoulders and nearly pulling him into an early grave. This feat Poe manages by himself, however, and the show ends with the never-elucidated circumstances of his premature death at age 40.
Co-creator and director Thaddeus Phillips’s storytelling, which makes use, Complicite–style, of the merest of props to create Poe’s material and emotional universe, affectionately preserves the memory of the author of “The Raven,” “The Tell-Tale Heart,” and the little known “Eureka,” his final obsession. But the narration relies especially on the folksy counterpoint provided by Jeremy Wilhelm, who sings and plays clarinet (and who co-wrote the brooding score with his brother, David (also present, on piano).
Poe’s tormented soul never found rest on the night train of his failed desires. Red-Eye to Havre de Grace drives a locomotive straight into the tortured heart that still pounds beneath the floorboards.