Edgar Allan foes: Dark musical doubles down on writer’s childhood

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They are Poe little boys.

A creepy new musical inspired by the life and writing of Edgar Allan Poe will offer an unusual double-take on the spooky author. “Edgar Allan,” which starts a three-night run at Cloud City in Williamsburg on April 8, presents the 19th-Century writer as a 10-year-old boy at boarding school who must confront an eerily-similar rival boy — also named Edgar Allan.

One of the show’s two creators says that using two Allans solved a problem they had while writing the show.

“We both wanted to play Edgar Allan Poe,” said Katie Hartman. “We didn’t know how that was going to work.”

Hartman and her partner Nick Ryan make up the Coldharts, a Crown Heights theater company that has created a series of Gothic-inspired musicals. For the company’s new project, they wanted to deal with issues of addiction and obsession, and to work with Poe, considered the father of American Gothic literature. But when the pair began researching the author of “The Raven” and “The Masque of Red Death,” they discovered an unexpected side to his character.

“We knew what was in the zeitgeist — that he’s a melancholy figure who is obsessed with dying women,” said Hartman. “We wanted to explore a different aspect of Edgar Allan Poe that people might not know. He was vigorous. He wasn’t eccentric as much as he was competitive. He was very athletic.”

In “Edgar Allan,” Hartman brings out the competitive aspect of the writer, who is “intent on dominating the class and being the most remarkable boy at the school.”

The story is loosely inspired by Poe’s little-known short story “William Wilson,” said Hartman, but it also draws on elements of the writer’s life, and on some of his better-known horror stories.

“It’s by Edgar Allan Poe, and it’s about Edgar Allan Poe,” she said. “There are definitely funny parts, but I would be hard-pressed to call it a comedy. I call it a dark play with music.”

Hartman also drew on Poe’s stories for lyrics to some of the songs, for which she sings while accompanying herself on the ukulele. Ryan, who plays the Allan rival, also plays the coronet.

The show, which is slightly less than an hour long, will be presented along with the play “Petunia and Chicken,” a prairie love story inspired by the work of writer Willa Cather.

“Edgar Allan” and “Petunia and Chicken” at Cloud City (85 N. First St. between Berry Street and Wythe Avenue in Williamsburg, April 8–10 at 7 pm. $20.

Reach arts editor Bill Roundy at or by calling (718) 260–4507.
Posted 12:00 am, March 31, 2016
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