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Review: ‘Mystery in the House of Usher: A Poe Tale’ at Ebenezer Maxwell Mansion in Philadelphia

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An immersive site-specific mash-up of the stories of Edgar Allan Poe and the game of “Clue,” Edward G. Pettit’s Mystery in the House of Usher: A Poe Tale, staged at the historic Ebenezer Maxwell Mansion, is the eleventh annual installment in the Victorian house museum’s series of you-solve-it murder mysteries and an engaging whodunit for this Halloween season.

Susan Edelman. Photo courtesy of Ebenezer Maxwell Mansion.

Susan Edelman. Photo courtesy of Ebenezer Maxwell Mansion.

As directed by Josh Hitchens–Philadelphia’s foremost purveyor of the macabre–guests actively take on the role of amateur sleuth, moving from room to room, meeting Poe and his characters, listening to their accounts of the previous night’s events, and trying to solve the puzzle of who murdered the writer’s beloved Lenore.

Before entering the site in groups of eight, each visitor is handed a pen and a clipboard with a worksheet listing the suspects, the rooms, and the possible murder weapons. Once inside at the foot of the staircase, Madeline Usher–played with urgency by Susan Edelman–welcomes everyone to the crime scene and explains the need to apprehend the killer, who might still be in the house.

The cast. Photo courtesy of Ebenezer Maxwell Mansion.

The cast. Photo courtesy of Ebenezer Maxwell Mansion.

Portraying a variety of characters from “The Fall of the House of Usher,” “The Tell-Tale Heart,” “The Cask of Amontillado,” Ligeia,” “The Masque of the Red Death,” and the poem “Annabel Lee,” the cast members, dressed in period-style costumes designed by Elsa R. Efran, recite lines from their well-known stories, disclose their actions and whereabouts at the time of the murder, and impart clues that will help to decipher the mystery.

As we make our way through the house, we encounter Judy Palkon as the mad Mrs. Price, Aaron Roberg and Leigh Jacobs as the evil Montresor and his walled-up victim Fortunato, Samuel Miller as the heartbroken Poe, Molly Edelman as Roderika Usher (a gender reversal of the original Roderick, but still a doppelganger for Madeline), Allison Kessler as the death-obsessed Ligeia, Megan Edelman as Poe’s childhood love Annabel Lee, and Benjamin Behrend as the plague-stricken Prince Prospero—any one of whom could prove to be the killer. Their up-close and personal vignettes are enhanced with creepy special effects by Jay S. Efran.

After visiting each of the rooms and collecting all of the clues, guests are led into the kitchen to enjoy apple cider and ginger snaps, while discussing the suspects and deducing which one is guilty, which weapon was used, and where the murder took place. Mystery in the House of Usher: A Poe Tale is fun for the whole family and an entertaining way to sharpen your skills of attention and deduction!

Running Time: Approximately 45 minutes, without an intermission.

Mystery in the House of Usher: A Poe Tale plays through Sunday, October 30, 2016, at Ebenezer Maxwell Mansion – 200 West Tulpehocken Street, in Philadelphia, PA. For tickets, call (215) 438-1861, or purchase them online.

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