Macabre: Tales From Edgar Allan Poe consists of four one-act plays, inspired by Poe’s tales. William Wilson (7m., 1w.) begins in a school in England. Wilson is a strong-willed, self-centered young student. He excels in everything—academics, sports and leadership. The inciting force that propels the story is the arrival of a doppelganger to Wilson’s school. His name is also William Wilson, and his birthday is also the same. This Wilson number two has the opposite nature from the headstrong Wilson number one. Where Wilson number one is arrogant, number two is self-effacing and kind. Wilson number two is an excellent student and athlete and can beat Wilson number one at sports. This clash of wills goes on for years even after primary school. At the conclusion of the tale, Wilson number one kills his better half, Wilson number two. The second piece, The Valdemar Case (3m., 1w.), is a science fiction story. Ernest Valdemar is a dying man. He has engaged a hypnotist, who has cured him of insomnia, to use hypnosis to keep him from dying. The hypnotist is convinced that this experiment will work. The experiment seems to work but takes hideous turns on the patient. At the conclusion, all that Valdemar can say from his hypnotic trance is: “I am dead.” Erie and thought-provoking. In The Imp of the Perverse (2m.), a convicted killer is talking with his priest on the day before the killer’s execution. The priest tries to bring faith to bear on the killer to mollify his last hours. The killer has no faith and desires no priest. The killer describes the details of his crime: a senseless, hideous murder of a family member. The family member never did harm to the killer. The killer explains the imp of the perverse, the propensity in man to act on irrational impulses. The killer lives well after the murder, but another impulse creeps into him, an impulse as strong as perversity—guilt. It is only his own impulsive guilt that causes his capture and conviction. Frightening insights into how impulse is a controlling factor in human behavior. The last piece is based on Poe’s only comedy, The System (6m., 2w.). This comedy succeeds in being both absurd and bizarre at the same time. James Collier, an American reporter, wants to do a story on the Maison de Santé, a mental institution in France, to find out how a successful mental institution is administered. The staff of the facility seems extremely eccentric to James Collier. When he asks about the patients, he finds that one thinks he is a tea pot, another fancied himself a donkey, another a Cordova cheese, yet another a leaping frog, and so on. In a surprise ending, James Collier discovers the reason that the Maison de Santé is thriving.
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- Type of Show Full-length Play
- Product Code MR2000
- Cast Size 9
- Min. Royalty Rate $90/perf
- Cost $10.95
- Approx. Run Time 90 min
- Target Audience High School | College and Adult
- Performing Group High School | College Theatre | Community Theatre
- Genre Comedy | Drama
- ISBN(13) 9781619591875
- "These four short plays worked great for my talent. I have students both in and out of my theatre class, so I was able to cast creativity. Each story is different in style and genre (i.e. science fiction versus mystery) and they are fairly quick-paced overall."
- Review by Sarah Dodson, Decatur Christian School, Decatur, Ill.
Hints, Tips, and Tricks
- "We used a simple set that only changed furniture and used more representational costumes. We were able to utilize a variety of small special effects to make a strong impact. We are a small school with limited resources, but we were able to successfully stage this show."
- Tip by Sarah Dodson, Decatur Christian School, Decatur, Ill.
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