A Modern "Poe Man" at Orlando Fringe
I love fringe festivals. They're such a great way to take chances on new art and artists, and I devote time every year to coverage of the Hollywood Fringe Festival. I didn't get to attend as much as I wanted to at Orlando Fringe this year, but here are my thoughts on what I did see. You choose a one-man Poe show at a Fringe Festival, your odds are 50/50 at best.
I think of Poe, I think early America: rough, young yet still slightly tinged with a British sound. That's why I'm glad Devennie begins with “The Telltale Heart”. His no-frills approach to the language eases you into his way of telling this story, his Poe -- closer to the cool High School English teacher than a muggy idea of Poe drowning in its own importance and expectations.
Devennie draws his "Telltale Heart" narrator straight from the headlines of “He was such a nice, normal boy. I had no idea he could do this sort of thing” [19th century spoilers: he murders a housemate because the old man’s eye puts him off.] We are at least five minutes into his telling before Devennie even raises his voice or shows any signs beyond normalcy. You could be asking him where the nearest bathroom is before he slips into the first sign that something is not quite right.
It's a great way to present this story, and one that feels all too real in the American of today.
I don't recall ever reading this one. A dwarf, forced into slavery as a court jester (and often the subject of ridicule as well), takes a well planned, maniacal revenge on the King who causes his and his only friend pain.
Devennie uses his well-honed storytelling chops to great effect. I found myself wishing we were actually around a campfire, hearing his words illuminated by chance with fire. Also, love this story! Any show that makes me want to crack open that thick hardcover of The Collected Works of Poe I've had for two years has earned its ticket price.
Poe's description of the slow toll that abuse and bullying takes on a person's psyche also feels too relevant and real in today's world.
Devennie started The Raven strong, with an old Southern “let me tell you a story on my front porch but I've had a few too many” vibe. It was well done and Devennie certainly more than did it justice. The character, however, didn't reveal anything new about the story. I almost wish he had never left his “porch chair,” and told the whole tale from there. Even though it didn't add up, ending a Poe adventure on “Nevermore” is never a poor choice.
His last show is an hour after I am publishing this, but he is an Orlando Fringe regular, so keep him on your radar for next year.