The setting was ideal. The weather was threatening. And the performances, high caliber. However, that being said, we think that Edgar Allan Poe would have been most attuned to the female talent and the side show entertainment that made Saturday night most memorable.
Thanks to the Creative Spark Center for the Arts and the Sullivan’s Island Park Service, Edgar Allan Poe: Back from the Grave did not disappoint. Standing in a slow moving and lengthy line before the show, attendees were mystified by projected images on the front of the decrepit yet creepily charming Fort Moultrie on Sullivan’s Island. What made the wait worth it? Belly dancers, casting their undulating shadows on the backdrop of moving flames and the ghostly image of EAP.
Inside this tomb of a fort, voices echoed like screams of soldiers long dead, thanks to the talented participants from Contemporary Theater Lab. A Poe look-alike greeted us at the door, and things just got more freakishly uncomfortable as actors addressed the audience like old friends. The spectators were close enough to the actors and actresses to make eye contact and feel as if each performer told secrets for our ears alone.
Highlights from the actors included a bloody Pit and the Pendulum, a haunting Fall of the House of Usher, and a full-on dance and sword fight to celebrate the terror of The Masque of the Red Death. However, the side shows truly stole the spotlight. Whether it was the undulating hips of the coin clad belly dancers outside, the haunting vocals of Cary Ann Hearst (a woman I deem the creepy gothic version of a modern day Billie Holliday), or even the blood-sucking mosquitoes terrorizing onlookers, it was an event Poe could have organized himself. Or at least, it was an event Poe would have attended, enjoyed, and haunted, to the terror and fascination of a Halloween happy Charleston mob.