The play begins when the hero of the story decides to visit the private sanitarium operated by the renowned Professor Maillard. The professor is famous for his method of treating the insane, a method widely known as "The Soothing System." The hero enters the establishment just as a grand party given by the doctor is about to begin. But Professor Maillard has not been heard from for some time. What happens during the party, the professor's explanation of his soothing system, and the activities of the unusual characters are comical and frightening—with an ending that may come as a surprise. It is excellent entertainment and a superb contest play for all groups. The play has humor and comedy—a rarity for Poe. It also features Poe's intriguing air of mystery and imagination and the threatening cloud of horror. Subtlety is the keynote of the play. The movements and activities of the guests must be subtle enough so that the audience will suspect that they are insane but not be sure until the end. At the beginning of the play the characters act normal, with just the barest hint that all may not be as it seems. Poe's story and this play are carefully constructed to reveal more and more of the eccentric personalities of the characters as the play develops to its mad conclusion. All the roles may be performed by either men or women—of virtually any age. In fact, this script was developed by an all-female cast in a theatre workshop at Mount Carmel Academy, an all-girls school in Louisiana. It can be done by an all-male cast as well. The cast may be enlarged by adding more party guests.
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