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The Raven and Six Other Points of Interest

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The Raven and Six Other Points of Interest, Excaliber Shakespeare Company, at the Black-White Productions Studio Theatre. It's wonderful that people like actor-adapter-director Darryl Maximilian Robinson recognize Edgar Allan Poe's dramatic potential--his mastery of dark, suspenseful narrative--and bring his chilling poetry and prose to the stage. This hour-long presentation features seven of Poe's gothic masterpieces, and not just the ones everybody's heard and read a thousand times. Included are "The Bells" (the result of a maddening distraction by church bells as he was trying to write) and "The City in the Sea" (said to symbolize the soul's quiet after death) as well as "Annabel Lee" (expressing the poet's grief at the death of his wife) and of course "The Raven." This adaptation puts each piece in context, whether through facts presented during Robinson's narration or fictitious scene settings: "The Tell-Tale Heart" takes the form of a confession by a volatile prisoner to a court psychiatrist under the watch of an armed guard.

While the performances by Robinson and supporting actors Ericka Ayche'le, Zak Brown, and Jenn Williams are well practiced and polished, they were too broad for the room at Pulaski Park (the show has now moved). And though this style seems to suit Robinson (though it's unclear why he performs in a thick, Richard Burton-style English accent when both he and Poe are American), it doesn't work as well for the other actors. In an intimate space, deliveries with less flourish and a deeper connection to the words are more compelling. --Kim Wilson

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