“Wanderers in that happy valley,
Through two luminous windows, saw
Spirits moving musically,
To a lute’s well-tuned law…”
As a staff member for a theatre company that exclusively produces original works, it isn’t a stretch to say that I am thoroughly excited by seeing performances blossom at their inception. The Hours of Life is no exception. The play was a musical rendition of Edgar Allen Poe’s career misfortunes and love affair with Sarah Helen Whitman. I had the pleasure of seeing this original new musical by Paul Lewis on its opening night and was stunned into submission by a wealth of talent from the cast and crew on this Theatre22 production.
Director Corey McDaniel exhibited a brilliant use of a very small space by utilizing the ring around a circular clock platform in the middle of the thrust at the Cornish Playhouse Studio. The original music was haunting and jarred the audience at times with its minor scales and unique blend of piano, cello, electric guitar(with distorted feedback appropriate to a song about American industry), acoustic/electric bass and drums. Accompanying the rhythm of the drums were instruments that harkened themes that made Poe famous. The woodblock echoed the tapping of the raven as well as the sinking and the swelling of the bells.
Brian Pucheu gave a stunning performance as the macabre poet, Poe, with delicate delivery of sensational and poetic lines. He was matched with powerful performer in Meg McLynn as Sarah Helen Whitman, another poet and eventual love interest of Poe’s. Michael Ramquist and Victor Matlock gave exciting and fantastical life to a pair conniving German profiteers set on getting revenge on Poe for publicly denouncing their livelihood. Other strong performances worthy of mention were that of Riley Donahue as Poe’s new found foppish friend and fellow poet as well as Sarah Trowbridge who played Poe’s cousin/wife who is is stricken with consumption.
I strongly recommend catching this wonderful musical and finale to Theatre22’s inaugural season which runs through December 14th Tuesday through Sunday at 8:00pm with matinees on Saturdays and Sundays at 2:00pm. Tickets are available at hoursoflife.brownpapertickets.com.
By Geoff Finney