Hannah Duggan, in an enveloping gray hoodie, and Brian Colonna, wearing very tight-fitting underpants, are about to bury a cat — her cat — while bickering bitterly. She’s loud and angry, he affects learned speech and a haughty demeanor. The cause of their argument: He bought a secondhand suit for the funeral; she says it’s not a funeral, they’re just burying her cat. Besides, the suit, which he’s already taken off and discarded on a pile of autumn leaves, looked stupid. According to the program for Edgar Allan Poe Is Dead and So Is My Cat, Colonna is playing “That One Guy” and Duggan “His Sister.” The other characters listed are Erik Edborg as “His Best Friend” and Erin Rollman as “Burt.”
Most of the people in the crowded, cheerful opening-night audience doubtless knew that the members of Buntport Theater have been presenting their astonishing work for over sixteen years, and that all of the productions are created by these four actors and a fifth, non-acting company member, SamAntha Schmitz. The scripts are original, powered by the artists’ obsessions, idiosyncrasies and talents, as well as whatever nugget of peculiar information has lodged recently in someone’s mind.
During the first few minutes of Edgar Allan Poe, with Duggan yelling and Colonna poncing around, though, I couldn’t help wondering if maybe this time the group, normally so reliably brilliant, had come a cropper with this show. Maybe it was going to be just plain silly. And as it turned out, that’s the goal. As the program explains, the actors “just want to laugh right now. We want something that occupies us for ninety minutes in a silly fantasy. We hope you want that, too.” Of course we do. We need a laugh as our president and his puppet Congress threaten to destroy everything we care about, hammer blow by hammer blow, from education to medicine, art to justice, democracy to the very world we live in.
Despite the cast’s best intentions, there are moments that do suggest a deeper meaning beneath the arguments spiraling around in circles like peel stripped from an apple. Buntporters are always thinking about art — what it is, how it’s made. In Edgar Allan Poe, someone delivering a soliloquy stops to remark on the uses of soliloquy. “We are discussing metamorphosis,” another character says grandly, while heaving away a garbage bag. The reason That One Guy bought a secondhand suit was that Poe, to whom he devotes a worshipful podcast, wore another man’s suit to a funeral — but since he’s purchased the suit, it’s no longer another man’s, His Sister argues. Of course, there are references to Poe’s “The Raven” and his essay “The Philosophy of Composition.”
This show is a nod to the spooky season, complete with candles, fog machines and sinister music, as well as an homage to Poe, a release from political anxiety and an assertion of the liberating power of unadulterated silliness. And that’s more than enough.
Edgar Allan Poe Is Dead and So Is My Cat, presented by Buntport Theater through November 19, 717 Lipan Street, 720-946-1388, buntport.com.