Reviewed by Anthony Arcidi
Who killed Edgar Allan Poe? The Cooping Theory 1969, an immersive theater experience at the club RPM Underground on West 54th Street, offers an alternative theory.of Poe’s mysterious parting on October 7th in 1849.
After initiation into the Poe Secret Society, audience and cast members alike gather in the bar where the Fab 4 are muraled on a wall, a backdrop for a small performance stage, lending a counter-cultural atmosphere.
After the first martini sinks in, the trippy mod look of the cast and saturated mood lighting in the dungeon-esque, gas-station themed club takes on an ethereal 60’s revival vibe with acoustic Beatles ballads and spontaneous speeches detailing historically accurate evidence of pre civil war corruption and the discovery of Poe’s body. The stylish activist, and possibly a stewardess in a saturated orange outfit played by Samantha Johnson, easily transitions from prepared speech to answer impromptu queries from onlookers, deftly staying in character. The audience, drinks in hand, swarm around the actors and rove from room to room, gathering new facets of the puzzle, like Poe’s issue with alcohol and the clothes he was found wearing at his death.
Cooping, an apparent Shanghai abduction style of voting fraud, is introduced and adds to the revolutionary anti-government spirit with a group of gothic spooky characters, like the creepy couple played by Estelle Olivia and Brian Alford resembling a younger hip version of the Munsters, as your guides. The paranormal tone gets into high gear when Makaela Shealy’s seance medium reaches out to communicate with Poe himself, meanwhile other cast members, in trances, begin to spew revelations of their interactions or observances of the doomed poet.
The makeup and costumes are impeccably done, the flow of action across several rooms or simultaneously in different rooms give the curious audience members lots of options to watch and gather clues. The only drawback is there might be one or two critical links of information that were performed elsewhere from the viewer to make the connections to understand the theory. This problem is solved by the highly social atmosphere of the club and by design the production encourages social interaction to piece everything together and wonder if it’s all true.
The Cooping Theory should be popular for groups and couples alike as an antidote to the music club/karaoke scene. The first martini was the best I’ve had in five years, exactly like I wanted, but the second was a complete disappointment not worthy of a carnival boat bash. The wings were okay but never got to try the burgers and fries when the offer was strangely rescinded.
All audience members are required to set up a tab, I assume there is a minimum.
Who Killed Edgar Allan Poe? The Cooping Theory 1969
Running time 2 hours 45 minutes
RPM Underground 244 West 54th Street, Broadway/8th Avenue