Derek Berlin, whose award-winning My Name Was Dorian…Dorian Gray told the story of Wilde’s fictional character, invokes an actual person in his new solo show, An Evening with Edgar Allan Poe. In interviews, Berlin had stated that his catalyst for writing the piece was that the figure of Poe has been seen as just a bogeyman for far too long, and it’s time someone set the record straight.
Depicting Poe as an anguished soul trapped in purgatory, Berlin describes incidents from the artist’s troubled life that molded him into the writer he became. His family was abandoned by his father when he was still a child, and his mother died the following year. He was taken in by John Allan, who proved to be a poor substitute for a real parent. After a failed stint in the army, he married his much younger cousin, Virginia — but it also ended in tragedy.
As Berlin speaks, one can recognize the fragments of the stories that Poe would pen based on these real-life incidents. Berlin also points out that he was extremely arrogant, considering himself far superior to his fellow authors. Considering he is credited with inventing both the detective and science fiction genres, his arrogance may not be entirely misplaced. But he was also a chronic alcoholic, which made the demons in his mind as real as those that he put down on the page.
Berlin portrays Poe intensely, with a dramatically florid delivery. This is the right choice, as it was the way actors of the time performed. The piece is not without its humor, however, especially when he’s taking potshots at his contemporaries. He also reads “The Tell-Tale Heart” in its entirety to remind everyone of the author’s genius.
In addition to playing Poe, the multi-hyphenate also directed and designed the set. Rose Kennedy provided his period-perfect costume and Christopher Henderson composed the atmospheric incidental music. The Greg Barrios Theater at the Overtime is the ideal intimate space for the piece, especially since Berlin makes the audience his co-conspirators, sitting in judgment on the author as he relates his tale of woe.
An Evening with Edgar Allan Poe plays July 20, 26 and 27 at 8:00 p.m. and July 21 at 7:00 p.m. at the Overtime Theater, 5409 Bandera Rd., Ste. 205. Seating is limited, and reservations can be made online.