by Michael “Buzz” Buzzelli, ‘Burgh Vivant
Two one-man-shows join together in one bizarre night. “Diary of a Madman” and “Poe’s Last Night” are two separate plays are about each man descending into madness.
David Crawford portrays Edgar Allan Poe in “Poe’s Last Night.” The action takes place on an evening in 1849, days before his death. Poe is dazed and wandering around the streets of Baltimore. He believes he is being pursued by mysterious assailants. His mind wanders. While Poe tries to ascertain the identities of his alleged attackers, he reminisces about his work, reciting “The Cask of Amontillado,” and “The Raven.”
Poe also recounts important details about his life, and we gain insight into the mind of the American author.
The play is at its best when Crawford recites Poe’s work. The biographical parts drag a bit, but Crawford keeps things moving with the perceived threat of the attackers possibly returning to finish Poe off.
Crawford has been performing, “Poe’s Last Night” for some time. He has received countless accolades for his rendition of the horror writer. He delivers another stellar performance here. The actor also wrote “Poe’s Last Night.”
The show is done with minimal props, a bench, a walking stick and a dark, barren stage. It didn’t need anything else.
To watch ‘Burgh Vivant’s interview with David Crawford, click here.
After a brief intermission, the stage is set for the second one man show; Russian author Nikolai Gogol’s “Diary of a Madman” performed by Jon Hayden. The show is about Poprishchin, a clerk who is in love with the Director’s daughter, a woman far above his station. It’s told in the style of a Diary, each entry starts with a date…um…sort of. At first, those dates fall into chronological order and then things get wacky.
At one point, he believes the young woman’s dog is conspiring against him. Oddly, it gets even stranger from there. He starts to fancy himself as the King of Spain for no real reason, other than it’s a symptom of what would be called a nervous breakdown in today’s vernacular.
It has a compelling beginning, but, like the character himself, it descends quickly into madness. It’s also about twenty minutes too long.
The show is not easy to watch. It’s a lot like watching a homeless man on the corner rant and rave, luckily there’s no smell of body odor and urine. That said; Hayden attacks the character with verve. He’s all in. It’s a fantastic performance.
The set was also beautifully decorated with items that look like they were plucked from 1825.
“Diary of a Mad Man” wasn’t my cup of tea, but it’s strong and bold like a good mugful should be. It dares to be different, and might just tickle your fancy. Besides, you get two shows for the price of one.
“Poe’s Last Night” and “Diary of a Madman” runs till October 16th at the New Hazlett, 6 Allegheny Square East, Pittsburgh, PA 15212. For tickets, click here.