One of the hidden gems of the Hollywood Fringe Fest 2012, with offerings eclectic and innovative, quite like its predecessor, the renowned Edinburgh Fringe Festival, is Edgar Allan Poe Must Die! A Writer’s Journey. This one hour play was presented at late night time slots, and also closing weekend. Crude and raunchy, of edgy HBO quality, with uncensored, unfiltered material, this “not quite ready for prime time” comedy/spoof, on the inside world of literati, was quite a treat for the Hollywood community of writers, editors, actors, publishers, and producers. It’s a clever conceit that postures writing icons in history, like Poe, Virginia Woolf, and William Shakespeare, juxtaposing them in modern scenarios with modern technology that have almost taken over society. One scene features Shakespeare “texting,” a definite play on words. As the description in the Fringe playbill notes, “Edgar Allan Poe is alive and he’s a very bad guy. Not only does he steal the souls from young writers but he’s also destroying Hollywood at the same time.” One show-stopping scene has Edgar Allan Poe seeking sex from a passing beauty instead of writing a profound poem about her. We know, in reality, that he wrote many brilliant pieces, including his immortal “The Raven.” In fact, a symbolic raven serves as a gadfly of sorts, buzzing and pecking at people’s perceptions and misnomers. The twittering raven is constantly notifying the cohesive ensemble if they’re living in reality or fantasy. The whole premise of the show is Poe posited against the literary greats with the theory that he was indeed a flawed human being, like all of us — not a super epiphany. Steven Sullivan portrayed Edgar Allan Poe with credible mannerisms and speech. Randy Pound as Shakespeare was very authentic with a mix of present and past, throwing about quotes of ‘his’ great plays. Virginia Woolf, played by Gwen Bueker, had the aura of a demure, dour philosopher with great aplomb. 7, the bewildered writer, performed by Ben Trimm, was a trooper that triumphantly battled all the obstacles. The play opens with some clever music choices (heavy metal and classic Queen tunes) in contrast to a stark, severe set. The first thing one notices are gravestones, presumably one is Poe’s. You have a meeting of the literary minds throughout history, akin to the technique used by Woody Allen in his classic Midnight in Paris. Underlying is an insider’s look at the life of today’s struggling writer. One classic line and oh too true is “How can I be a writer when I’m not paid for my work?” It’s indeed a very tongue in cheek look at the world of writers, who “live or die” by buying and selling their works.
This show was performed at Theatre of Note.