The House on Poe Street
The Theatre at the 14th Street Y
Snapshot Review: Must See
Jacquelyn Claire, Reviewer
The Cast of House on Poe Street,
Photo by Al Foote III
Yonder Window Theatre Company and The Theater at the 14th Street Y present a gloriously Gothic, fan fiction, scintillating short story ode to Edgar Allen Poe. We have all the hallmarks of a Poe detective story in this witty, lush play by Fengar Gael. It\\'s littered with themes of death, pseudoscience, psychics, ludicrous extravagance, romanticism, the macabre ... and it makes for compulsive viewing. It\\'s funny and intriguing.
The action takes place in the residence of the Seaborg twins. The ladies have recently inherited the property from their mother, situated on West 84th street between Broadway and Riverside Drive, and are introduced to the real estate lawyer, Mendel Steingold who has been entrusted with handling the new clients every need. The site is the supposed location where Poe crafted his epic poem, "The Raven," and the twins mother had designed the interior as a shrine to him. Heavy red velvet, oppressive curtains and red painted walls create the atmosphere of ghostly remembrances. The twins, Argonne and Fluorine, arrive with secrets and shocking stories that unnerve Mendel. The entire lurid tale of mystery and mayhem is told through the character of Mendel Steingold whose life will forever be changed by the encounter with these spirited women. It\\'s a compelling theatrical page turner.
Fengar Gael has written a rich, layered text that satisfies on so many levels. It\\'s addictive viewing as there are delicious cliff hangars and plot twists. It\\'s marinated in humor and also offers some exquisite discourse on everything from eugenics to gender parity. Your right and left brain gets lit up like an overachieving Christmas tree.
A gifted cast prickled our imaginations with their focused performances. Gregory Jensen as Mendel Steingold is brilliant as the stoic alpha male buffeted on the gale force estrogen winds of the strange Seaborg twin\\'s whims. Jensen delivers a strong performance with a commanding presence and anchors the piece beautifully. Olivia Nice as Argonne Seaborg is gloriously dark and sensual in the role with an uncanny ability of making you feel totally "creeped out." Eliza Shea as Fluorine Seaborg is the effervescent counterpoint to her twin sisters seemingly sinister shadow self. Shea lights up the room with a bubbly energy wrapping you up in positivity. Both Nice and Shea have beautiful singing voices and create magical harmonies in the short a cappella songs they sing.
Mendel\\'s fiancee, Samaria Silverman, is played by Tamara Geisler who gives a nuanced, polished performance as the curious teacher pulled into the web woven by the enigmatic Seaborg sisters. Laura Johnston/ Richard Abrams as the medium Lithia Nickels is totally hilarious. I think it is the best portrayal of connecting with "spirits" I have ever seen on stage or screen. She is seriously funny. Daniel Light as Astin Rutherford and Gadi Rubin as Lawrence Silverman are a delight as the gentlemen playthings of the twins.
Director, Katie McHugh has crafted a stunning production. The show is slick, attention grabbing and memorable. She keeps the tension line going throughout with a great pace and acute attention to performance detail.
The scenic design by Pei-Wen Huang-Shea creates the perfect atmosphere for the ghostly story with framed images of Poe and wife Virginia suspended in the room with an obligatory raven (you can almost hear it tapping on the window pane proclaiming "Nevermore!"). The set is saturated with the ideal dose of romanticism that is continued into the great costume design by Alice Giacconi with dark clothing accented with splashes of red. I particularly enjoyed the original music composed by Sheilah Rae which was haunting and gave you lovely gooseflesh moments. The world was further enhanced by the evocative sound design by Robert Gonyo and superbly somber lighting design by Isaac Weisselberg.
My plus one, also a theater reviewer, and I concurred that it was a truly entertaining and thought provoking production. We chatted about it incessantly all the way to Union Square Subway. It makes you want to read Edgar Allan Poe all over again and take a little pilgrimage to all the places he haunted in NYC when he was writing his works.
Running time: Running time 85 minutes, no intermission
The House on Poe Street plays through November 12, 2017 at The Theater at the 14th Street Y.