The characters of this show may be tiny, a little wooden, and come off as a little stiff but Poe-Dunk: A Matchbox Entertainment is anything but rigid. In fact, this innovative, charming, engaging show by Playlab NYC directed by John Pieza is a lively piece of theatre thanks to the man behind the matches – Kevin P. Hale.
Hale conceived this show which can be though of as a trip at break-neck speed along the autobahn of Edgar Allan Poe works (in the course of an hour over 30 Poe works are mentioned, performed or touched upon). Hale is also the sole performer, voicing all the characters and maneuvering scores of itty-bitty matchstick puppets around their eensy-weensy sets. Don’t worry, though, thanks to a projector every microscopic bit of theatre is visible to the audience and there’s not a bad seat in the house.
When acting as narrator, and giving a bit of history Hale is much like Poe himself who (we are informed) was a great fan of puns. Puns, of course, can be a bit of an eye-roll but the winning and likable Hale delivers them with such outright enjoyment that it’s almost impossible not to be swept up in the sense of fun that pervades this entire production.
Poe-Dunk is many things at once: play time for grown ups, multi-media theatre, and an exquisite study in how to shave those zeros off your production budget while still delivering characters who are gorgeously costumed and have the luxury of performing in beautifully appointed sets.
The set up is simple. Hale, for the most part, sits at a table and delivers Poe’s works one after another -some well know (The Tell-Tale Heart, The Mask of the Red Death, The Murders in the Rue Morgue) and some obscure (The Unparalleled Adventure of One Hans Pfaall, The Conversation of Eiros and Charmion, The Philosophy of Furniture). Each time another small box is drawn forth there’s no telling what will come from it, and as each Matchbox Theatre piece plays out it is nothing short of delightful to watch the clever ways that the tiny sets are manipulated. These itsy-bitsy sets are not simply static but come complete with all manner of special effect which are highly creative and in some cases utterly ingenious. While some stories rose far above the original work in terms of playfulness (Cabs, Theatrical Rats) the presentation of The Cask of Amontillado was as chilling, as dramatic and as memorable as any I would hope to see in a full-scale production and played in a way that would make Poe proud.
One bit of advice if you’re planning to attend -just as when you go to Madison Square Garden for, say, a Lady Gaga concert and find yourself staring at the Jumbotron the whole time to see her better- you may find yourself staring at the projection screen most of the time. Don’t. To do so would be to rob yourself of the joy of constantly being reminded exactly how small and well-rendered each of these mini-scenes are … as well as keep you from enjoying the expressions on the face of Mr. Hale as he tells these tales of Poe. This is a man who – as PlayLab’s mission statement declares – takes fun way too seriously. So allow yourself to enter his tiny world and see how amazing it can be to play with matches.
~~~Poe-Dunk: A Matchbox Entertainment Company: Playlab NYC Directed by: John Pieza The Red Room 85 E 4th St New York , New York 10003 2nd and 3rd Ave Feb 24, 9:30PM Feb 27, 8:00PM Feb 29, 11:00PM Mar 03, 12:30PM $10.00 / $12.00 Click Here for tickets
The 2012 FRIGID NEW YORK FESTIVAL will run February 22-March 4 at The Kraine Theater & The Red Room (85 East 4th Street between 2nd Ave and Bowery) and UNDER St. Marks (94 St. Marks Place between 1st Ave and Ave A). Tickets to all shows may be purchased online at www.FRIGIDnewyork.info or by calling Smarttix at 212-868-4444.