2015 Capital Fringe Review: ‘Poe Whitman’: ‘Embodying Poe’

Embodying Poe is the second offering of Robert Michael Oliver’s 2-part 2015 Capital Fringe ‘Poetry in Performance’ called Poe Whitman (Read Julia Capizzi’s review of Song of Myself: The Walt Whitman Project.

Robert Michael Oliver in 'Embodying Poe.' Photo by The Performing Knowledge Project.

Robert Michael Oliver in ‘Embodying Poe.’ Photo by The Performing Knowledge Project.

In a jam-packed 60 minutes – we are here with this tortured soul – and there is no escape! And if Sinatra was the greatest seller of lyrics, Robert Michael Oliver is the greatest seller of Poe’s words. His delivery is sometimes heart-wrenching, sometimes funny, sometimes surprising, and sometimes scary. His energy is boundless and his stage presence haunting. He’s a force of nature.

I have always been a fan of Edgar Allan Poe’s poems, but I have never been so moved than I was witnessing Robert Michael Oliver’s tour de force performance of 7 of Poe’s works, including his poems “Alone,” “Ulalume,” and ‘A Dream Within a Dream.”

And when Oliver becomes several characters in “Silence: a Fable,” it’s simply stunning!

And of course in the hands of this master “The Raven” was an experience I won’t soon forget. See for yourself:

I asked Robert why he decided to bring back these two shows that he has performed before to this year’s Capital Fringe:

“Both Poe and Whitman represent a spiritual quest. I began with Poe, and it was important for me to bring Embodying Poe back, re-imagined production-wise, so that spiritual quest could be brought to the fore: hence the recurring presence of the demon. Everyone knows the horror story Poe; few understand his search for peace.”

And it’s his search for peace that made this production so interesting to me. If you are a Poe fan or are not, the backstory that you will hear will add more understanding and meaning to his life and work and to the selection of poems that Oliver performs.

Douglas Fraser has composed a score with various musical themes and Marcus Oliver has contributed artwork (pastels, mixed media, crayon on paper, and pen and ink) that enhance the production and give it, at times, a supernatural feel. Stage Manager and Lighting Designer Elliot Lanes has created a shadow behind Oliver that gives the illusion that the late poet is right there beside him. Lanes also created the effective sound editing, and Elizabeth Bruce contributed the costume design.

Embodying Poe is one 2015 Capital Fringe production you must see. You’ll never forget it. Nevermore!

Running Time: Approximately 60 minutes.

Poe Whitman plays through July 26, 2015 at the Hyman M. Perlo Studio- 3225 8th Street NE, in Washington, DC. For tickets, go to their Capital Fringe Page.


Song of Myself: The Whitman Project
Wednesday, July 15 at 7:00 p.m.
Thursday, July 23 at 9:00 p.m

Embodying Poe: poetry-in-performance
Saturday, July 18th at 7:15 p.m.
Sunday, July 26 at 1:45 p.m.

Read the preview article on DCMetroTheaterArts.


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