edgar allan: creepy and kooky, hilarious and spooky.
by Maura Stephens

April 16, 2015

The Coldharts’ Edgar Allan

Community School of Music and Arts, April 16-19

The second Ithaca Fringe Festival kicked off with a sure-fire hit from the Brooklyn-based troupe the Coldharts, about the imagined boyhood of the master of macabre, Edgar Allan Poe.

Edgar Allan — billed quite accurately as a “maniacal lullabye [sic] inspired by Edgar Allan Poe’s youth and stories” — is both sportive and spooky.

Part musical, part drama, it opens with the 11-1/2-year-old Edgar Allan plucking a ukulele and singing in a boy-choir soprano of his childhood imaginings and yearnings and . . . plots of domination in the new boarding school he’s about to enter.

Katie Hartman as Edgar Allan is sweet-voiced and graceful, alternately droll and demonic as the narcissistic preteen, crowing about his high birth and of his prowess in academic subjects, elocution, sport, and strength of body and character. Scornful and downright cruel to the other boys, he intimidates the other students to the point that they all leave him to eat alone as, he informs us, befits a superior being such as he.

All, that is, but one. Another boy of, it happens, the very same name — Edgar Allan — barely notices the self-appointed new head of school, which drives our young egoist mad. Adding insult to injury, Edgar 2, played with reserve, dignity, and a touch of mystery by Nick Ryan, offers to be his friend.

This is too much for the callow tyrant. Edgar 1 plots revenge. He entices Edgar 2, played by Nick Ryan, to tempt trouble and venture off campus to engage in a ritual name changing. During their wilderness baptism, Edgar 1 (who has chosen a moniker that will give readers of Poe a grin of satisfaction; I won’t give this away here) demands that they each reveal to the other one deep dark secret that no one else in the world knows.

Edgar 2 declines to go first. Edgar 1 does blurt out his most painful secret, intending to trigger an even more damning revelation from his nemesis that he will henceforth use against him in dastardly ways. But Edgar 2 disarms him with a hug of sympathy, perhaps the most intimate touch he has ever felt. When it’s Edgar 2’s turn to share, his boyish silly secret is so minor in comparison that Edgar 1 is mortified to have revealed his own vulnerability.

This calls for a suitable revenge. Suffice it to say that what ensues is not for the faint of heart, but perfectly satisfying, even for someone like me, who is pretty wimpy when it comes to horror tales.

The story is often moved along by bursts of oddly compelling songs, accompanied by the ukulele, delivered in Hartman’s lilting voice. Her broad demonic smile and audience eye contact make it all perfectly hypnotizing and creepy. And Ryan is a splendid foil.

I LOVED THIS PLAY and highly, highly recommend it. Edgar Allan — a perfect fringe show. Bravo, Coldharts!

—Maura Stephens