Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Curse of the House of Usher, Weird City Theatre Company, February 18 - 28

Weird City Theatre Company specializes in the creepy, the spooky and the haunting. Their sense of "weird" shares something with the scruffy, quirky laid-back attitude of the now clichéd slogan "Keep Austin Weird," in that they are working on a shoestring and a vision. But they are really embracing a different notion of Austin creativity: the idea of translating otherworldly out-of-copyright works into evening séances to give us suspense, a shiver and a release.

Patti Neff-Tiven's set and Philip B. Richard's lighting provide plenty of atmosphere. That's particularly important for a piece in which Poe immediately establishes the crumbling Usher mansion as a character in its own right. In the first paragraph of the short story as he arrives on the scene, the unnamed narrator stops to examine that manse:

What was it—I paused to think—what was it that so unnerved me in the contemplation of the House of Usher? It was a mystery all insoluble. [. . . ] I reined my horse to the precipitous brink of a black and lurid tarn that lay in unruffled lustre by the dwelling, and gazed down—but with a shudder even more thrilling than before—upon the remodeled and inverted images of the gray sedge, and the ghastly tree-stems, and the vacant and eye-like windows.

Poe's language goes on like that through his twenty atmospheric pages, as the narrator seeks to renew the childhood friendship and draw Roderick Usher from black depression and acutely painful reactions to sound and sensation.

Read more and view images at . . . .

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