Theatre Review: ‘The Edgar Allan Poe Experience” at The Wren’s Nest

Photos by BreeAnne Clowdus


“True!–nervous–very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but why will you say that I am mad?”

You probably recall Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart” from high school or college. If you don’t, Brian Clowdus Experiences will plunge you into its delicious madness with “The Edgar Allan Poe Experience,” just in time for Halloween. It is an immersive theatrical experience being performed at The Wren’s Nest, writer Joel Chandler Harris’ 19th Century house in south Atlanta (not Serenbe!), now extended through Nov. 4.

This macabre entertainment is directed by Brian Clowdus and written by Derek Dixon; Brian Jordan is the associate director.

Actually, the audience also becomes a part of three other Poe classics: “The Raven,” “The Fall of the House of Usher,” and “The Masque of the Red Death.” The audience moves from room to room in the spooky old house to experience aspects of the stories. A favorite is attending a haunted dinner party hosted by the mysterious Red Death presence.

In one room smoke appears to ooze magically up from the floor, as though you were standing just above the jaws of hell itself—can you take such horror? Yes, you can! A delightful sense of incipient madness pervades the whole evening; in fact, you get the feeling that you’ve entered an asylum—Poe would be very pleased.

None of this scary magic happens without actors, and we have some fine ones, starting with Poe himself, played by Skye Passmore. He is intense, disheveled, anguished, and sinfully sensuous. He’s a perfect Poe, although undoubtedly more handsome than the master writer himself.

The audience is invited into the house by the very imperious Doctor/Officer, played by Robert Hindsman. Believe me, when his booming voice issues a command, you obey—quickly!

As a matter of fact all the actors are quite commanding; I think some of them may have worked in a house of bondage. I’m sure Shannon McCarren has: She plays Madeline Usher and also a deranged nurse. Once again, when she or The Raven (Courtney Morgan) asks you a question (and they do, at times), you answer, immediately.

A brawny, caped Truman Griffin wears the Red Death Masque. One is not late to his dinner party, I assure you. He is also a forbidding attendant in a long white coat, looking as if he’s about to ask if you’re ready for your lobotomy. In fact, one nurse asked me quietly if I was medicated. I quickly assured her I was. You see how you could go mad in such a house.

Despite the horror, “The Edgar Allan Poe Experience” is a complete delight. As one carefully moves from room to room, a comically morbid sense of anticipation accompanies the guests. This is certainly not your typical evening of theatre, but theatrical and completely involving it is.

Let us give more credit: The lighting and sound design is by Maranda DeBusk. Costume design, Emmie Thompson; choreography, Bubba Carr; and original music by Chris Brent Davis.

Brian Clowdus has captured national attention for his incredible site-specific theatrical work at Serenbe Playhouse. His reputation will only be enhanced by “The Poe Experience.” The Wren House is a perfect setting for the evening. By the way, photographer BreeAnne Clowdus’ magical photos, available online, make breathtaking souvenirs.

It’s my understanding that word has spread quickly about this show; I’d order tickets immediately; some shows are already sold out. Quite frankly, I had a ball.

For tickets and information, visit wrensnest.org.

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