Red Eye to Havre de Grace is a play about Edgar Allen Poe. It includes some of Poe’s works, and incorporates reports about Poe’s last days, but is more of a portrayal of a man overtaken by obsession and madness.
Light on dialogue, this play combines dance and music to depict hallucinations and dreams. Many of these hallucinations and dreams feature Alessandra L. Larson who, silently and gracefully, plays Poe’s wife who died young after a long illness from tuberculosis.
In one of the most magical moments, Poe throws a square of grass onto the stage, takes off one shoe and sock, and is sitting quietly enjoying the feel of the grass on his bare foot, when a hand reaches up out of the grass. The hand becomes a full body—that of the nymph-like Larson, who, through her dancing around Poe–almost pulling him back through the grass–gives us a sense of the grief that still overwhelms Poe years after Mrs. Poe’s death.
Another highlight of Red Eye to Havre de Grace is the music which is composed and performed by the principal creators of the show, brothers Jeremy and David Wilhelm. David, who doesn’t speak, is on the piano most of the evening—his music ranges from melodic show music to the avant-garde. At some point in the evening we are surprised to learn that the sound effects—like those of a train—are coming from Wilhelm’s piano. The final scene has Wilhelm and two other performers playing by sliding pieces of strings back and forth across the piano’s strings.
Jeremy, who sings and plays music, and performs a few characters in the show, starts out as a mild-mannered, slightly bumbling park ranger (who has his own website) and then surprises us with his deep, commanding voice.
One of the musical moments of the show is a Spanish flamenco piece, with David Wilhelm on the guitar, some traditional “palmas”, shot glasses serving as percussion. The piece is enjoyable, but its only connection to the play seems to be that one of Poe’s poems has the title “Eldorado” .
The program guide contains a production history which starts in 1849 with the publication of Edgar Allan Poe’s final work. One of the entries occurs in 1997 when the two creators of the play purchase a table for $20. That table, together with a door and a bed frame, are manipulated to form a changing set. In one scene, the interaction between two characters and the door and bed frame convey a trip through the corridors and stairs of a faded hotel. We feel like we are watching a three card monte-style trick.
All in all, the moody show offered plenty of surprises and moments of magic.
Created by Thaddeus Phillips, Jeremy Wilhelm, Geoff Sobelle, David Wilhelm and Sophie Bortolussi, with Ean Sheehy for Lucidity Suitcase Intercontinental; directed by Mr. Phillips; sets by Mr. Phillips; costumes by Rosemarie McKelvey; lighting by Drew Billiau; sound by Robert Kaplowitz; choreography by Ms. Bortolussi; production stage manager, Lindsey Turteltaub; music by Wilhelm Bros. & Co. Presented by New York Theater Workshop, James C. Nicola, artistic director; Jeremy Blocker, managing director. At New York Theater Workshop, 79 East Fourth Street, East Village; 212-279-4200, nytw.org. Through June 1. Running time: 1 hour 30 minutes.
WITH: Alessandra L. Larson (Virginia Poe), Ean Sheehy (Edgar Allan Poe), David Wilhelm and Jeremy Wilhelm.