Are you asleep? Good. Let us begin. Again. Darkness has once more descended upon your mind, crept into your dreams, and awakened a nightmare that you knew once before. A vestibule, instructions, the evening awaits— and you recall having been here before. Or have you? Fact and fiction, living and dead, waking and sleeping, the lines are blurring together once more in an evocatively immersive theatrical experience like no other. Returning to The Enoch Pratt House in time for the haunting season, The Mesmeric Revelations of Edgar Allan Poe installs itself once more to continue the journey into madness. The house welcomes you to explore its contents and inhabitants, just as before, but new revelations, new apparitions, and new stories are arising in the midst of the otherworldly. A remarkable experience like no other, this two hour engagement of your time will haunt you quite soundly for some time to come.
The search for Edgar continues. Or does it? Glenn Ricci’s initial concept continues to evolve as it settles into the house, further excavating the layers of poetic madness and surreal conscious dreams that the works of Edgar Allan Poe has to offer. Directed by Ricci, Michele Minnick, and Susan Stroupe in a trio of collaborative efforts, the experiences witnessed inside the house are mesmerizing. Baltimore’s very own site-specific, locally-flavored, immersive theatrical engagement entreats the audience to become a part of the show. No two guests to the house will experience the same performance throughout the evening. With even more opportunities for one-on-one interactions with the denizens of the house, the new mount of the performance has an even broader appeal to theatergoing and history-loving audiences than before.
Ricci’s otherworldly soundscape still underscores the evening, but it has grown in intensity and presence. There is a pulse to the evening that is driven by this mesmeric soundscape, an urgency of worlds colliding that effuses itself into the ether through the vessel of music that Ricci has created. Enhancing the experiential aesthetic is the Scenic and Lighting Design work conceived by Kel Millionie. Aided by Properties Master and Scenic Dresser Ursula Marcum, Millionie puts the unsettling nature of the spirit realm into practice all throughout the house. With so many fascinating things to explore, one could easily spend the two hours’ time intimating their presence among the scenery alone and have a deeply fulfilling experience.
Introducing new inhabitants to the manor, Ricci Minnick and Stroupe have shifted the vibe of the show’s overall existence. Focusing more intently on the madness that unravels in the spaces between waking and sleeping, living and dead, fact and fiction, this team of diabolically charged creative geniuses works now with a cast of 16 performers, a startling increase from the original six, to create a unique experience every night the show is in residence. Eight characters in rotation at any one time, with a potential ninth mystery visitor— and every night presents a different casting combination— the experiences vary vastly across the board. Having previously attended the first incarnation of Mesmeric Revelations, it can only be said that though the faces may be similar and the house may be familiar, the experience is never the same. A truly wondrous and indescribably phenomenal experience, the continuation of this immersion is even more impressive than its initial existence.
New to the Manor are Madeline (at this performance Siobhan Beckett), the keeper of the house, and Roderick (at this performance Nick Genna), butler and servant to the house. Watch them both closely, trust neither of them. Truly a fabrication of the house as living entity, both Beckett and Genna craft characters that move as one with the breath of the very walls. Their physicalities, though strikingly different from each other, create these characters in such a harrowing fashion that their presence easily stands the hairs on your neck on end. Beckett slinks about, floating as if her feet were made from the floorboards whereas Genna stalks stoically through the manor as if he has come alive from the very wall. Incendiary additions to the already haunting and mesmerizing cast, both of these characters present rare opportunities for one-on-one interactions wherein the full complexity of the experience can be further explored.
Remaining in the manor, because in reality it is quite possible their spirits never left, are Auguste (at this performance David Brasington), Eliza (at this performance Jenna Rossman), Sarah (at this performance Shannon Graham), Virginia (at this performance Deirdre McAllister), V (at this performance Tanner Medding), and the Barkeep (at this performance Caitlin Bouxsein.) Working together as a fluid ensemble with Roderick and Madeline, these characters create an experience that is nigh impossible to articulate. Stories woven around Edgar, snippets of poems, glimpses of dreams, fragments of souls, all winding through the night, through the manor, and through the eyes, bodies, and voices of these performers.
David Brasington delivers a squirrely discomfiture as Auguste, nervous, uncertain, and touched by an obsession that haunts his features quite soundly. Each of the souls trapped amid the manor’s embrace possesses a strain of the madness, each unique in their discovery and exploitation of it. Brasington’s simmers just below the surface and articulates itself quite soundly in his frantic and wary eye movements as well as his jittery movements when confronted by characters like V.
Rossman, as the delightfully delirious Eliza, maintains a voice that echoes throughout the house regardless of where her physical presence is situated. Graham, as the widow-clad Sarah, and Bouxsein as the frightfully skittish Barkeep, present similar presences that reverberate throughout the manor even when they are only glimpsed from the corner of your eye. Bouxsein delivers several moments of revolting movements and sounds that can only be described as creepy, making her place in the house well-earned.
A living doll, a distressed and unfortunate creature is reconciled to fruition with Deidre McAllister’s performance of Virginia. Without explicitly describing the affair, the level of madness born in her interpretation of this waif-life woman, this wraith-like wretch, is astounding. A haunting experience that delivers par to the course of the evening, McAllister invests her tokens of madness with raging spirit expressed mostly through her physicality. Rarely a word does she speak but so much the better that these manifestations of delirium only be seen and not heard in her case.
Medding extrapolates the epitome of the outsider’s experience as his character V, like the rest of us, is merely a visitor to the house, slowly becoming ensconced in its insanity. The upright polish and panache with which Medding delivers the character initially peels away like veneer stripped by the weathered hands of time as the evening progresses, ultimately resigning himself to capitulate to the madness as it seeps through his face, voice, and body. Harrowing moments of a tortured mind, a restless soul, and a disturbed heart echo fervently throughout his performance as he succumbs to the vices of the house.
A truly extraordinary experience the likes of which cannot be met anywhere within the borders of Charm City, The Mesmeric Revelations! of Edgar Allan Poe provides a fantastically haunting, earnestly thrilling, and tremendously bold new immersive theatrical experience that will cling to your mind’s eye for many moons to come.
Running Time: The house will envelop its guests for precisely two hours without pause, and up to a half hour of mingling in the foyer is encouraged prior to the start of the evening’s events.
The Mesmeric Revelations! of Edgar Allan Poe plays through December 20, 2015 in the historic Enoch Pratt House of Baltimore through the Maryland Historical Society— 201 W. Monument Street in Baltimore, MD. Tickets are going fast and several dates are already filled to capacity. Tickets must be purchased in advance online.
Click here to read the review of the original mesmeric incarnation.