Jonathan J. Davis
From left: Eric Woolfe and Mike Petersen
Literary blends don't get any weirder - or more fun - than The House At Poe Corner, concocted by Michael O'Brien and Eric Woolfe as a mixture of Edgar Allan Poe's tales and poetry and A.A. Milne's characters and style.
Our narrators are Edgar (Woolfe) and Allan (Mike Petersen), look-alikes of Poe, complete with pallor, staring eyes, moustache and unkempt hair.
The setting is the ghoul-haunted woodland of Weir, from Poe's verse Ulalume, a formerly happy place presided over by Mr. Usher (as in The Fall Of The House Of…) that's now drowned in sadness and decay.
The two, with the help of puppets that include a figure named Poe-Bear, tell a quartet of bloody stories inspired by Milne and Poe. A Cask Of Bumblegoo, for instance, has elements of The Cask Of Amontillado and the Winnie-the-Pooh tale of the bear's love of honey (bumblegoo). The most detailed of the four is The Masque Of The Red Blunderbeast, an outrageous, over-the-top piece that introduces the supposedly make-believe Blunderbeast into a banquet in which Poe-Bear does his best to humiliate Cutlet (a naive, fearful piggish creature who resembles you-know-who in Milne) in front of all their friends.
Designed by Melanie McNeill, the puppets were once, I suppose, cuddly dolls or parts of such creatures; here, though, with bloodshot eyes of often mismatched colours, they're less than friendly. Woolfe and Petersen have lots of fun with them, filling breaks between stories with magic tricks and "warbles," tunes written by Cathy Nosaty and played by Woolfe on the banjo.
You'll also meet the frantic Jack Hare and the depressed Gloomhoof the Mule, as well as Walla and her offspring Bee, the former mummified and the latter both devoted to her and anxious to break his ties to her. Don't worry if these creatures are sometimes killed off in one tale; this is a world where characters can be "unmurdered" with ease and return for another adventure.
Fast and funny, The House At Poe Corner is a great way to continue Halloween beyond October 31, especially if you're a fan of Poe or Milne.