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Center Stage: Two dazzling events in one week

By Staff | Feb 16, 2011

Will Stutts as Edgar Allan Poe.

The SRO audience at Big Arts was given an imaginative treat with the On Stage presentation of Will Stutts’ one-man tour-de-force performance of “Journey Through the Mind ….Edgar Allan Poe.” With no more than a simple set of a writing desk, a wing back chair and an end table, with Stutts speaking to an imaginary interviewer, this actor/playwright was able to thrust us into the dark recesses of Poe’s fertile mind in this original one-person play genre.

Stutts’ career spans more than four decades and virtually all aspects of preofessional theater — actiing, directing, producing and playwriting. He is, however, best known for being the leading practitioner of the one-person play in the world today.

The action in “Journey…” takes place in October 1849 at a rooming house in Richmond, Virginia. We learn that Poe’s father was a scene-chewing, bombastic actor who deserted his wife and child at an early age. Poe’s mother was English, and a trained Shakespearean actress who toured with an American Shakespeare players company supporting herself and her son by acting and taking the child on tour across America. She tragically died on stage in Richmond while performing, leaving her son a veritable orphan. The acting company not knowing what else to do, farmed out young Edgar, to a childless couple, the Allans, who lived in Richmond. The Allans raised the boy but never legally adopted him. John Allan, the harsh, demanding father figure with his one lifeless blue eye, became the central character for the story of “The Telltale Heart,” the plot line of which Stutts eerily delivered to end Part 1.

The remainder of the evening’s performance followed the same format; starting with an introduction of a character who played a major role in Poe’s life followed by the poem or story that person inspired. This arrangement — or journey _ delving into the mind of Poe was really attention-grabbing, driving us into the darker recesses of the author’s creative thinking. Edgar Allan Poe was also much inspired to explore these shadowy regions by what he called “the spirits of the bottle.”

Stutts gave a strong voice to Poe, enriching him with tormented soulfulness, using the author’s words to create the musical sounds of a forlorn, anguished, requiem. His final recital of “The Raven” was a powerful ending to a most interesting evening’s diversion.

Now that I have your attention, let me tell you of a most wonderful concert given by the Community Concerts. Ach du liebe, it was a trip down memory lane for this German-born immigrant when the Opole, Philharmonic of Poland performed a Vienna Gala Program. This program of Viennese waltzes, gallops, and polkas was what I used to dance, standing on top of his shoes, with my Polish-born daddy when I was a little girl. My dad loved all the Johann Straus waltzes, as well as the operetta music of Franz Lehar which was also part of this program, featuring the talented and lovely award-winning soprano, Izabel Matula.

The 76-instrument Polish Philharmonic was not only big, it was grand, playing with a bubbly, light sparkle, brisk tempos, and a delightful sense of humor. Conductor Boguslaw Dawidow displayed a real musical knowledge and immense enthusiasm as well as a real stage presence. This extraordinary Concert Orchestra is making its American debut, and I would suggest that, if you missed this concert and you happen to read that they are playing in your home town, run, do not walk, and get a ticket for The National Philharmonic of Poland performing a Vienna Gala.

The next Community Concert is another winner when, on Feb.28, The Russian National Ballet performs the full-length “Sleeping Beauty Ballet.” If you don’t have tickets, phone the Community Concerts Association at 939-3236. Remind ’em when you call that Marsha Wagner sent you!