Just what did the NY Theater Review blog have to say about Gutterdrunk? "Spooky . . . Compelling . . . Energetic and clever . . . Captures the fear of mortality and cynical wit of [Edgar Allan Poe] . . . The show brings us into a little world of its own, one which, while not always comfortable, is always interesting. . . . The music of the production, performed live by a banjo, drums, and a few guitars, is nearly worth going for on its own. Reminiscent of a scaled down Decemberists, it perfectly accentuates the old-timey stories. . . . People will be troubled, so many of the stories [center] on the approach of death, making that abstract notion of an unknown future come into clearer focus."
The plaque outside the John Street Church says that it sits on the former site of a late 18th century theater at which President Washington attended performances. We can only hope that the first chief executive was treated to as energetic and clever a show as Hyper Aware Theater Company's, GUTTERDRUNK: The Poe Revisions.
A retelling of several stories by Edgar Allen Poe, this partially environmental piece, captures the fear of mortality and cynical wit of one of America's great 19th century writers. Presented as a series of vignettes, which span various periods of history and storytelling styles, the show brings us into a little world of its own, one which while not always comfortable, is always interesting.
The show takes place in two locations, the first and most compelling, is the alleyway between the church and it's neighboring building to the west, in this skinny sliver of real estate, the first three short plays occupy the early evening with a kind of atmosphere no set builder can recreate. During this section of plays the fourth wall and temporal reality of the production begin to fray a bit, a technique that continues after the plays move indoors, into the dark confines of the church's basement.
Once in the basement, the show becomes a bit more traditionally presentational. Rows of seats and a staging area, though the shadowy room does provide a spooky backdrop for the remaining 4 plays. Throughout all of this, the figure of Poe himself, wanders about, quill in hand, as if ready to jot down all the strange happenings before him. As the production moves through the 7 plays, multiple styles and time periods are used for the retelling of the tales. Generally speaking, the actors handle these shifts quite effectively, though occasionally some of the more arcane language is stumbled upon in ways that might not be noticed with a more modern script.
The music of the production, performed live, by a banjo, drums and a few guitars is nearly worth going for on it's own. Reminiscent of a scaled down Decemberists, it perfectly accentuates the old timey, troubling stories of the master of horror.
Fear is difficult to achieve in a live stage audience, an I don't think anyone will be scared by Gutterdrunk, but I do think people will be troubled, so many of the stories focus on the approach of death, making that abstract notion of an unknown future, come into clearer focus.
The writing, done by 7 different playwrights, actually manages to have a single stream kind of feeling, resisting the choppiness that often comes with such projects. And the direction neatly sews everything together, creating a very solid whole. The fun that the actors and band have while guiding us through these stories, keeps it from dipping too far into depression. On the whole, this balance provides for a very recommendable evening of theater.