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Eric Coble's Poe tale is full of riches.

Blood, sweat, and fears: Specialties of Poe and Coble.
  • Blood, sweat, and fears: Specialties of Poe and Coble.

All is not despair on the theater front. The Cleveland Play House, in order to keep its subscribers well-oiled and purring, has, besides a well-stocked bar in its club, the Millennium Series: tantalizing one-week productions of juicy virginal scripts that have the potential to bestow ecstasy on generations of future playgoers.

Eric Coble's Under the Flesh: The Final Descent of Edgar Allan Poe sets the series hurtling into the stratosphere. This macabre, screwball horror show could just as easily have been titled Who's Afraid of Edgar Allan? as it puts a ghoulish spin on Edward Albee's classic by turning Poe and his spiritualist lady love into a satanic George and Martha, playing Gothic mind games on a brash young surgeon. The master of terror makes the surgeon the doomed victim in a series of reenactments of his most fiendish tortures, ranging from Fall of the House of Usher to The Pit and the Pendulum. The audience is kept guessing as to whether the naughty Poe is in one of his narcoleptic trances or truly on his last journey to the netherworld.

Director Scott Kanoff gave a production smokier and more tongue-in-cheek Gothic than any dozen '30s Universal horror classics. Ron Bagden's Poe, compact and effectively maniacal, earned himself a one-way ticket to Bedlam. Daniel Pearce's trapped surgeon spun like a solid gold top from brash boyishness to descent to the depths of terror. With her mysterious aura, Laura Perrotta once again proved herself to be the most exotic spellbinder since the original cast production of the Trojan War. We suggest you write your congressman and artistic director Peter Hackett, demanding a rerun for next season. -- Joseph

Keith A. Joseph can be reached at kjoseph@clevescene.com.

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