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Why Suffolk’s, “Loss of Breath” is a Must-See!

From Modern Theatre’s website: Drawing from Poe’s stories and biography, Savick invents a fantastical world between life and death. We encounter Poe, his mother, spouse, Annabel Lee, ghosts, and other ghastly beings…and a middle-school English teacher from Indiana.

This week, Suffolk’s Theatre Department opened their first major production of the year with, Loss of Breath: The Unfinished Life and Death of Edgar Allan Poe. The show is written and directed by Suffolk’s own Professor Wesley Savick with puppet creation by Puppet Showplace Theater.

The first act is concerned with Poe’s life, while the second act focuses on his death and afterlife. Each act incorporates the writings of Edgar Allan Poe – both published works and personal writings – along with dialogue. Viewers will be able to pick out well-known poems and stories such as “Loss of Breath,” “Annabel Lee,” “Eureka,” and “The Pit and the Pendulum” throughout the course of the performance.

The juxtaposition of Poe’s tragedies and his works allows the audience to understand just how profoundly his life influenced his writing. It’s as if the actors onstage are truly bringing Poe’s words to life.

The first act is, essentially, a puppet show narrating the life of Edgar Allan Poe. We meet his wife, Virginia, his dead mother, and his mother-in-law, along with various characters from various works. The well-designed puppets truly come alive thanks to the great acting work of Suffolk students.

Jack Aschenbach and Peter Teutsch as Poe were especially impressive in their competing, but complimentary, interpretations of how Poe thought. The act was interspersed with onstage interpretations of Poe’s various writings. Kane Harper in “Loss of Breath” gave a truly chilling monologue; Justin Lahue and Allison Blackburn provided fantastic moments of hilarity that kept the audience laughing amongst a serious play.

Contrastingly, the second act of the play will break every theatre rule you didn’t know existed. Writer and director Wesley Savick notes that, “the second act is structured like a traditional Japanese Noh drama…[Noh] breaks every single rule of most Western theatre…it is, at least to [him] initially, almost incomprehensible.”

This may sound daunting, but when played out onstage the effect is enchanting. The actors on stage perfectly capture the contrast between haunting and normal. In the act, Justin Peavey plays the only human figure in a world of spirits; in contrast, Anastasia Bolkwadze’s performance as a spirit was enchantingly powerful.

“[Noh] evokes the spirit world. It breaks down the boundary between this world and some other haunted, intangible yet entirely recognizable one…the world of our dreams,” Savick notes.

At once humbling and otherworldly, the second act will truly take you on a journey.

While the actors were amazing throughout, the true star of, Loss of Breath was the production. Puppetry, lighting, sound, and props came together to create a unique experience. They were able to create amazing effects, including a wailing ghost, not-so-dead corpse, and truly terrifying “masque of the red death.”

This show certainly would not be what it was without the fantastic work of Suffolk’s production team.

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