Awake at Night, Bay Street Theater’s modern take on the stories of Edgar Allan Poe, written, produced and directed by Associate Artistic Director Will Pomerantz, was both an artistic and a technological success. The Virtual Reading and world premiere online presentation of adaptations of three Poe iconic thrillers – placing them in modern settings – was successful because Pomerantz fused beloved Poe soul-searching writings into the future by using today’s language and new settings.
Beforehand, when I interviewed Pomerantz, I noted taking on and attempting to transform the genius of an American literary giant such as Poe might be dangerous. He seemed confident. After viewing the presentation live via the Bay Street provided link, I now understand why.
Due to brilliant acting and some even more brilliant tech work by Bay Street’s tech wizard Mike Billings, what was presented to the pay-for-viewing audience was a combination of gifted writing, intense professional acting, all wrapped up in an innovative, flawless technological online presentation. There seemed to be moving sets, props, and sounds that added so much to the three shows. It was easily the best presentation of live theater done other than in a theater I have ever experienced.
The first presentation of the online program was titled A Case of Romanee Conti. In his adaptation of Poe’s The Cask of Amontillado, Pomerantz creates a dialogue of an old programmer who finds an old boss at a vineyard in the Napa Valley. Ari Brand and Daniel Gerroll will long be proud of their performances, they were that good. Pomerantz’s Poe inspired writing and their actualization of the words makes intense, mind griping watching and listening. Again, the magic of Mike Billings’ tech genius convinces the audience in front of their devices this is happening in both a winery and then in a home wine cellar vault.
The second adaption presentation, 812 East 9th Street, takes place in New York City in a crumbling brownstone. This one was based on Poe’s The Fall of the House of Usher. This story again has brilliant acting. Loren Lester is arresting on the screen, as is Michael Levi Harris. After viewing this and the following third production, Through My Flesh, you will always remember Teal Wicks. She has a unique presence – especially on a screen. The lens loves her. What is most rewarding about 812 East 9th Street is the drama Pomerantz gathers via the cadence of his lines via his actors and how they capture the viewers’ imagination.
The last presentation on the program is titled Through My Flesh, and is based on Poe’s Ligeia. Through My Flesh is the story of a soon to be retired professor who elucidates a tragic and mysterious situation in Istanbul many years ago. The influence of Poe is stamped all over Pomerantz’s interpretation. Kevin Orton is outstanding, yet Teal Wicks steals scenes with her talent.
What followed the show was a zestful Zoom discussion led by Bay Street Theater’s Artistic Director Scott Schwartz along with Will Pomerantz, Mike Billings and the actors. I love seeing everyone in their chosen spots at home during any Zoom. The discussion was broad based as the brilliance of Scott Schwartz zeroed in on the nuts and bolts of all three productions and lasered in on the salient points of each production.
The whole program was so exceptional I plan on watching all three presentations again.
In an interview, Pomerantz explained that the “Awake at Night genesis was that Scott Schwartz and I thought it would be fun to have some sort of programming that would be around Halloween and celebrate that energy that’s around at Halloween since so much of the regular activities have been truncated and we can’t do this year.”
After viewing the entirety of Awake at Night, one must say, “Mission accomplished!” Awake at Night will be available to watch through Saturday, October 31.
To watch Awake at Night, visit www.baystreet.org.