Home > 'Poe' (review) - thru 10/26
'Poe' (review) - thru 10/26

Short Description of 'Poe' (review) - thru 10/26

'Poe' (review)– thru 10/26

Unicorn Theater

Berkshire Theatre Group

Stockbridge, MA



To call a show “The Best Drama of the Season” is a mighty big statement—unless, of course, it's the end of the season and your statement is both definitive and stated as an opinion. So it goes with 'Poe' at the Berkshire Theatre Group's Unicorn Theatre, playing until October 26. The season was crowded with not good but great theater, so where and how do we draw the line? How difficult and hair raising can such a statement be to make?



On September 27, 1849, Poe (David Adkins) left Richmond, Virginia on his way to New York City to secure the publishing of his newest manuscript, Stylus. However, Poe was found on October 3rd in Baltimore, outside of Gunner's Hall and Tavern, staggering in drunk and haggard. No one knows what transpired during that missing week, from September 27th until the fateful entry to Gunners. The missing week is a long, cataclysmic beginning of the end of Poe's life, as one mystery aids and abets another.


Poe, we learn, was dear friends with the tavern's owners, and he stopped in to visit them while passing through to New York. He found his way in before it opened through the basement and finds the new tavern owner, Connor (J. Andrew Young) and helper Elizabeth (Madeline Calandrillo). Connor took over the tavern from his parents, both now deceased.


This is where the play starts, in the tavern, as it begins to chronicle the mysteries of Poe's final days. We know the ending. The genius of this play is how we get there. Adkins portrayal and development of the unknown Poe is brilliant and flawless. We are introduced to both Poe's genius and his rabid alcoholism in short order. The remainder is plot development, readings, and the recreation of history to help us define who Poe was, and more importantly, how he died. By focusing on the last days of Poe's life, we are actually being introduced to his death, where the mystery begins. Poe died October 7th, and his final words were “Lord, help my poor soul.”


David Adkins, playing Poe, is so singularly strong and powerful you begin to wonder why this work is not just a monologue. The answer, however, is simple: The facts are flushed out through the chit chat with our other actresses and actors. The plot builds that way, the unraveling begins. The others serve as sounding boards (and good ones) to flush out detail about a life, and death, that are as mysterious as life and death can be. We simply don't know that much about Edgar Allen Poe. Beyond the basics, the questions about Poe's life—and his death—allow a lot of room for artistic interpretation and professional license. There is often a blurry line between history and historical fiction, so Hill utilizes the extra characters and theme of alcoholism to build on these blurred lines. The result is a potent blend of one of the most moving performances of the season.


Poe did die mysteriously. No one knows how and the medical records were destroyed. He was delirious, incoherent, and perhaps even hallucinogenic. This is how he spent his last day(s), and this is the character we are introduced to. Was the bazaar behavior of one of the world's greatest writers the result of drug use and rapid alcoholism? Was he beaten up at a poll booth? Ill?


Or......did he die of rabies?


Many scholars build upon rabies as the cause of his death and the reason for his behavior, and this writer has adopted this thesis. We will never know.


What we do know is this production is a must see. Adkins performance is masterful.


   --Richard DiMaggio, didyouweekend.com


Poe quick facts:


-Born January 19, 1809, Boston


-Abandoned by his father. Orphaned at 3 when his mother died


-Paid a pittance for writing 'The Raven'


-Married his cousin Virginia when she was 14 and he was 27. Lied about her age on the marriage certificate.


-Though known mostly for poetry, he wrote one novel, The Narrative of Arthur Golden Pym, and one play, Politian.


-He enlisted in the US Army under the false name of Edgar A. Perry


-His mother, brother and wife all died of TB


90 minutes, no intermission


Written and directed by Eric Hill


a World Premiere




David Adkins

Madeline Calandrillo

Kate Maguire

Brian Plouffe

J. Andrew Young


Contact Information

Address: Unicorn Theatre Stockbridge

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