Edgar Allan Poe challenges madness in Theatre Collective’s ‘Nightfall’

Edgar Allan Poe challenges madness in Theatre Collective’s ‘Nightfall’

“All I can say is that it’s not some old-timey version of ‘Tales from The Crypt.’”

Actor Bryan Guarino is talking about “Nightfall with Edgar Allan Poe,” a Halloween production by Theatre Collective of Northwest Arkansas. He plays Poe, the only character who travels among four short dramas, “The Raven,” “The Fall of the House of Usher,” “The Pit and the Pendulum” and “The Tell-Tale Heart.”

“If you know anything about Edgar Allan Poe, then you know that he lived a very tragic life,” Guarino says. “In the play, Poe is trying to convince the audience, and himself, that he’s not going insane. Meanwhile, we see through his stories the myriad of emotions he’s grappling with, and it’s clear that Poe is losing the battle.

“Poe introduces the show and clearly concludes it, but Poe doesn’t really introduce the stories,” he adds. “He survives them.”

“Each story stands alone, but as a cohesive whole,” adds director Charlie Riedmueller. “The only character who appears in more than one is Poe, but here is the thing … they are ALL Poe. Or, aspects of Poe. They all represent his mind, as projected through his stories.

“The script was already chosen by The Theatre Collective when they put out a call for directors,” Riedmueller says of how he came to helm the production. “I was hesitant at first — my wife Sarah and I have a 19-month-old who takes a lot of our time! — but just a few days before the submission deadline, I decided to take the plunge. I hadn’t directed a full-length play since ‘Fully Committed’ at Arkansas Public Theatre in 2014. The call of the stage was getting loud again. Plus, this one seemed like a creepy good time, with themes perfect for the Halloween season.”

Riedmueller has been acting for a long time, and says “acting and directing are very different animals.”

“Acting can be a grind, learning lines and blocking, while working (and re-working) scenes to make them just right. But the payoff is extraordinary, when the lights come up, and you can experience those moments along with your audience.

“The rewards for directing are more immediate but more gradual,” he goes on. “Watching a show slowly come together into a cohesive whole, and sharing the excitement with the actors as we discover more layers, is quite gratifying.

“It can also, of course, be nerve-wracking knowing that the success of the show, from the staging to the performances, the tech, props, sets and costumes, ultimately rests on your shoulders. One certainly could not do it without the support of a great team of volunteers!

“This show is a particular challenge because of the venue … a black box is, by design, a lot sparser and barer than a dedicated theatrical space, and requires more creativity when it comes to staging.”

Guarino has been on stage only since the 2022 Smokehouse Players production of “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf.”

“I’ll admit, I was a little intimidated,” he says. “But I grew to love living in the character for hours at a time. You know immediately how you’re impacting the audience. Adrenaline is pumping through your veins, and you’re living the story from start to finish. It’s invigorating! I knew from the moment I stepped on stage opening night that I’d keep doing theater.”

Poe is not an easy character, he adds.

“I think what makes this play resonate is how relatable every story is. We’ve all felt these feelings at some point; grief, guilt, anxiety, fear, rage. Poe is unable to escape this emotional quicksand, and that takes its toll very clearly. As far as madness goes, I’ll leave the final verdict to the audience.

“It’s fun to have a place to channel those emotions,” he adds. “We all feel this way from time to time. It’s been both fun and cathartic.”



“Nightfall With Edgar Allan Poe’

WHEN — 7 p.m. Oct. 27-28

WHERE — The Medium, 214 S. Main St. in Springdale

COST — $15-$20

INFO — Theatre Collective NWA on Facebook or at theatrecollectivenwa.org or tickets at zeffy.com

FYI — Recommended by Theatre Collective for ages 13 and older.

Categories: Theater