NEW YORK – The Spyglass Seven by Michael Seebold draws on the life of Edgar Allan Poe and the women who figured prominently in his life for a spooky evening Off-Broadway. The play was presented on October 31, marking its Off-Broadway and New York premiere at Theatre 80 St. Marks in the East Village of Manhattan. Set in a cemetery, the play was very appropriate for Halloween with pale, black-clad ghosts trying to figure out who was or is Poe’s soul mate.
The poet and father of the detective fiction was known for being a harsh critic and readily making enemies with his contemporaries in the literary circles of the time. Poe’s relationships with women were complicated to say the least, and the actors do their best with the poetic language and the lofty 19th century sentiments to find the truth. References to his works are made throughout the play and the minimalist set design is highlighted with eerie lighting and sound effects that are befitting of the play’s subject matter and Poe’s association with the macabre.
Flavia Sgoifo, the Greek-Italian actress and a contributor to The National Herald, appeared in two roles (Jane Stanard / Nancy Richmond) in the play, each performed with a subtlety and depth of emotion conveying the inner turmoil of the women and their complicated feelings for Poe. Sgoifo spoke with TNH about her experience in the play. She said, “I’m beyond glad and grateful for being part of this production. As an actress, I always aim to work on a gig that challenges me even more than my previous ones and that gives me the opportunity to learn something new. As part of my preparation for this play I had to do a lot of research on Edgar Allan Poe, his life, his inspirations, the poems he wrote and his death. I enjoyed every single moment of this process and I can definitely say I have grown as an actress and as a person.”
Diana Quetti as Beauty appears early on to explain the situation to Poe played by Dillon Herbig. Poe’s cousin and wife Virginia Clemm played by Weronika Helena Wozniak, his literary rival Rufus Griswold played by Corey Tuccillo, and his first and last love, Sarah Elmira Royster played by Michal Birnbaum, are among the characters that visit with Poe in the play. Tuccillo was particularly effective in his role, giving a powerful presence and a dynamic voice to the nearly forgotten Griswold.
The Spyglass Seven by Michael Seebold was the recipient of the 2012 Arts NC State Creative Artist Award and made its world premiere at NCSU University Theatre in the Autumn of 2013. The Evening Crane Theatre, as noted on their website, is a NYC-based theatre ensemble dedicated to the resurrection of forgotten 19th century masterworks, and the presentation of new plays in a lyrical mode. The ensemble derives their aesthetic from traditions manifest throughout the works of the second generation Romantics, the French Symbolists, and the late 19th-century Aestheticists. Founded in early 2016 by director and playwright Michael Seebold, initially as an outlet for a single production of Lord Byron’s 1821 mystery play, Cain, for a graduate thesis project in Literature at North Carolina State University, The Evening Crane Theatre expanded its ambitions and brought other lesser known verse plays by Byron to New York City and Off-Broadway including the poet’s final, unfinished work, The Deformed Transformed.