Posted on Jul 20, 2014
5 out of 5
It seems every year at Fringe there comes along a show that I find myself wishing could be brought out to full length. This year, one such show is Bryan Colley's "Red Death", an operatic take on Edgar Allen Poe's class "The Masque of the Red Death". Poe's works--indeed, gothic horror in general--is by its nature so inherently operatic that it's amazing that it isn't tapped as source material more often. Really, the closest we have to an musical adaptation of the story before this is Fishbone's "Party at Ground Zero".
Colley of course is a fixture at the Fringe, and it's always interesting to see what he comes up with. This time around is a bit different than the usual fare, but this is no bad thing. The story is more or less the same, Prince Prospero (Nathan Granner, Ten) walks his guests (and by extension, us) through the multicolored rooms of his stately pleasure palace, while the uninvited but inevitable guest (Coleman Crenshaw) stalks along behind. A servant (Devon Barnes) has been added to the story as a counterfoil to the prince's decadence. From room to room, they debate pleasure and pain, life and death. This provides an interesting counterfoil to the show, but still the whole thing clocks in at about 40 minutes.
As someone who regularly covers the opera beat, I meet many people who would like to give it a try but are too intimidated by it. "Red Death" is as operas go, about as accessible as it gets. It is short, sung in English, with a story that most people know, and you don't even have to get dressed up for it. The principals are both seasoned singers--Granner's tenor voice being particularly noteworthy--and the chorus keep things interesting without becoming intrusive. It is on the short side for this reviewer's taste, but then, can wanting more really be a bad thing?