The Fringe Encore Series 2017, currently at the Soho Playhouse, offers a solid program. Now in its 12th year, it highlights the best shows from Fringe Festivals around the world, from Brighton, UK to Hollywood, and from Edinburgh and Winnipeg to Adelaide, Australia.
Look for the unique at the Fringe Encore Series
Without the series, audiences could not appreciate these cutting-edge productions without visiting Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom, or Scotland during their festival seasons. Works like Jimeoin: Ridiculous, Identity Crisis, and Shell Shock provide rich entertainment for an affordable price.
A Comical-Musical Farce with serious undertones
A unique show, loosely about Edgar Allan Poe’s boarding-school adventure in England, is running at the Soho Playhouse until October 7, featuring The Coldharts. The one-hour Edgar Allan has been created by Katie Hartman and Nick Ryan in collaboration with Mark Benzel, and is performed by Hartman and Ryan.
Hartman humorously portrays the entertaining 11-year-old Edgar Allan. The protagonist opens proudly with a song proclaiming that he comes from a remarkable family and therefore the stars shine on his destined greatness. However, we perceive that Edgar’s crow-like gestures reveal a dark personality. Not only does this tween embrace rebelliousness, his ghoulish facial expressions remind us of demonic spirits. Is this a young Edgar Allan Poe from life? Hardly.
During his song we are taken in by his quirky physical actions. Indeed, we begin to appreciate the show as a farce where “anything” may happen. Through the twists and turns of plot, the unusual does happen.
Intriguing plot twists
In class Edgar Allan meets a fellow student (Nick Ryan) who bests him in math and Latin. Crow-like Edgar feels intense anger toward this rival, for he has the same name. (Nick Ryan gives a humorous portrayal of Edgar Allan #2.) Initially, crow-like Edgar projects a sinister intent toward this enemy. Unaware, the owlish, gentle Edgar Allan #2 remains peaceful. Can two such opposites become friends? Calm Edgar Allan needs a friend. On the other hand wild Edgar Allan frowns on the union. Finally, Edgar #1 caves in. Why?
Friendship becomes the M.O. for crow-like Edgar’s plans. Secretly, the tweens make a pact. Edgar # 1 and Edgar #2 remove to an isolated area away from the school campus and knight themselves corvus (crow) and owl. Events breach reality. References to the Cain/Abel story anticipate a cruel ending. Personalities crack. Resentment, hatred, and revenge sneak behind smiles.
Humor in the song lyrics presents the conflict between the two Edgar Allans. Additionally, over-reactions by the evil tween contrast with the sweet, inner beauty of his counterpart. Fantastically drawn dynamics between them whisper a dim future for both. Cryptic undercurrents of danger forward the action. Thematic threads of sorrow, loss, and injustice propel the story. What will happen to the passive Edgar #2 in the hands of his evil “friend”? Will it mirror crime tales by the real Edgar Allan Poe? Perhaps.
To conclude with humor would seem inappropriate. Instead, there is a reckoning that harks back to one of Poe’s short stories, “The Tell-Tale Heart,” in which a criminal narrator confesses because of a guilty conscience. On the other hand, the wicked Edgar Allan shows no guilt or remorse. Perhaps he will evolve toward goodness. But some are beyond correction.
This New York City premiere of a show that has toured globally on the festival circuit is wreaking fun-filled havoc at the Soho Playhouse at 15 Van Dam Street in New York City. If you enjoy merriment and dark farce, see it. Click here for the calendar.