A man in black enters carrying a candelabrum. The haunting notes of a distant violin fade away, as he slowly lights a group of nearby candles. The candles flicker against his face, revealing a smile. He welcomes us and thanks us for suspending our disbelief a little further. He explains that he has fallen in love with the writings of Edgar Allen Poe and now, he will become the troubled author in this one-man show. As he speaks to us, the bald man carefully applies make-up to his face, accentuating the lines and hollowing out his eyes. He changes his clothes from 2018 to 1800s attire. He places a wig upon his head, securing it with spirit gum, and draws on the mustache that has become engrained in our consciousness. Finishing his tale in a southern gentleman’s twang, the transformation is complete…
“I heard many things in hell. How, then, am I mad?”
– Edgar Allen Poe, The Tell-Tale Heart
In his introduction, actor/writer Duffy Hudson transforms himself bit by bit into the famous Edgar Allen Poe through make-up and costuming. But it is in his recitation of perhaps one of Poe’s most famous works, The Tell-Tale Heart, that he truly succumbs to the words and accompanying madness to fully embody the author. From the disillusioned opening to the guilt-ridden crescendo, Hudson’s Poe believably builds in energy and physicality, bringing the audience along with him as he finally shrieks his confession.
“But we loved with a love that was more than love – I and my Annabel Lee”
– Edgar Allen Poe, Annabel Lee
Bringing Edgar Allen Poe to life is not as simple as reciting his works. In his portrayal, Hudson exudes southern charm and sadness. As Poe, he tells of the loves he’s lost throughout his lifetime – his mother, foster mother, and wife – and emphasizes Poe’s sorrow in his rendition of Annabel Lee. Taking a crumpled paper from his pocket, but barely looking at it, Poe’s voice cracks and heart breaks as he speaks of a love lost to a chilling wind from the clouds. Hudson’s connection to the material is unquestionable, and the audience is enraptured.
“And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor shall be lifted – nevermore!”
– Edgar Allen Poe, The Raven
The poem that earned Poe $14 and made him famous: The Raven. The same poem that ignited Hudson’s love for the author is the climax of his show. Hudson’s Poe cherishes every word in the 19-stanza poem as he paces around the stage in frustration at the bird that won’t leave – the embodiment of grief. The audience hangs on every word as if hearing them for the first time. Poe eventually relents to the unending sadness he is left to endure after so much death in his life, uttering his final “nevermore.” Having lived a lifetime through his works, Poe, sagging in despair and lost for words, thanks us once again for our time.
“I apologize, I am not myself today…”
As a fan of Edgar Allen Poe from a very young age, I was delighted to see three of his most famous works come to life through the exquisitely expressive Duffy Hudson. Hudson expertly balances his own connection to the works of Poe in a fun out-of-character introduction, Poe’s brief telling of his life story, and Poe’s recreation of his works. Hudson creates a version of Poe that is both entertaining and melancholy, much like the characters Poe created. With a sparse set only used for the introduction, attention is appropriately focused on the perfect showman; Hudson breathes life into the famous author’s tales and leaves the audience wanting more.