Fall is upon us. And with it, the creeping, intensifying desire for things dark and mysterious. And what is more autumn, chilled air, and macabre than Edgar Allan Poe?
We Happy Few has resurrected their audio series A Midnight Dreary, which premiered in October of 2020, with two episodes containing dramatic readings of poems and short stories by Poe, the father of gothic literature himself.
In addition to the two original episodes, a third episode was released. This new installment includes more poems from Poe and his short story The Black Cat. Also in this installment is Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper, which is narrated by a woman assigned to rest by her husband, following the birth of their child, which resulted in her “nervous depression.” Both stories are fascinating and steeped in presumed commentary on societal norms, alcoholism, patriarchal oppression, and guilt.
The Black Cat, similar to Poe’s A Tell-Tale Heart, which was performed in episode two, is told by a character insistent on his sanity and sensibility as he succumbs to increasing, irrational motivations of violence, brought on by alcohol and over-indulgence. Ultimately, the narrator creates his own downfall by revealing his crime to the authorities.
In The Yellow Wallpaper, the narrator’s decline into insanity is the direct result of male oppression, as her postpartum depression (as it is now commonly known) is dismissed as a nervous condition and she is confined to a single room with wallpaper in a tauntingly hideous and complicated design that, with nothing else to focus on, she obsesses over until convinced that there is a woman imprisoned by the overlaying pattern.
The audio performance comes with an extras box, including a candle, nerve tonic, a pamphlet with the program, and commentary on the stories, plus pictures and activities to enhance the experience.
I was originally asked to review the recent Episode 3 but enjoyed the readings so much that I requested access to the first two. Episodes 1 and 2 contain Poe’s The Masque of the Red Death, The Cask of Amontillado, A Tell-Tale Heart, and The Premature Burial, as well as the poems “The Bells,” “Spirits of the Dead,” and “Alone.”
The recordings are an excellent way to enjoy the beloved classics. Perfect for listening around a fire pit on a dark and dismal night with Halloween approaching, they also serve as an entertaining way to engage the whole family and perhaps introduce the delightfully eerie and grotesque works to a new generation. That is my plan with my teenagers. Feel free to steal it.
We Happy Few has alluded to a possible Episode 4 next year, which I will await with bated breath. But for now, the A Midnight Dreary audio series is perfect for listening and experiencing masterpieces of literature and nefarious machinations that this time of year calls for.
Recording Length: About 45 minutes, with no intermission.
A Midnight Dreary: Etched in the Wall, by We Happy Few, was recorded at the Capitol Hills Workshop and Skyhill Studios in Washington, DC. The episode is available for purchase online, with the extras box. (The extras packages are limited edition and will be available until they’re gone.) Audio recordings of Episodes 1 & 2 are also available for purchase online.
Directed by Des’ree Brown; Adapted by Robert Pike and Paige O’Malley; Sound Design by Robert Pike; Featuring: Tẹmídayọ Amay (Jane), Isaiah Harvey (Black Cat Narrator and John), Paige O’Malley (the Voice), and Gabby Wolfe (Wife and Jenny); Producer: Jon Reynolds; Production Manager: Sam Reilly; Audience Experience: Alex Turner, Stefany Pesta, Kerry McGee, Jon Reynolds, Paige O’Malley, Gabby Wolfe, and Keith Hock; Graphic Design: Kerry McGee, Alex Turner, and Stefany Pesta; Dramaturgy: Keith Hock
Episodes 1 & 2
Paige O’Malley: The Voice, Desirée Chappelle: Prince Prospero, Kerry McGee: Montresor, Alex Turner: Fortunado, Jon Reynolds: Tell-Tale Heart Narrator, Dylan J. Fleming: Buried Alive Narrator
Directed by Bridget Grace Sheaff and Robert Pike, Sound Design by Robert Pike and Tosin Olufolabi