Staged underneath the O’Reilly Theater stage with performances now to November 19th.
By JADE GOODES
Pittsburgh Public Theater takes on Edgar Allan Poe’s famous macabre short story in their latest heart-pounding production of A Tell-Tale Heart. The Pittsburgh-centered adaptation of this classic story is a spine-chilling tale that is the perfect activity for a chilly autumn night.
Poe’s A Tell-Tale Heart follows the story of a man driven mad by guilt after gruesomely killing and dismantling an old man. The sound of the old man’s heartbeat haunts the protagonist until he can no longer bear it and confesses to the murder. Pittsburgh Public’s version adapted and performed by Alec Silberblatt with direction by Marya Sea Kaminski, is similar in theme but set in modern times. The leading man, Perry, regales the audience with a story about his childhood, uncle, and girlfriend Nora. The story begins innocently enough, but with each passing minute, the audience soon realizes Perry is confessing to not only one but a series of gruesome crimes.
A Tell-Tale Heart plays at the O’Reilly Theater, or rather, underneath it. Without giving too much away, audiences are taken into the O’Reilly Theater and ushered below the usual performance space to what I can only describe as somewhere between a “man cave” and your grandparents’ basement. The space holds less than forty people, making for an intimate viewing experience. This works well because it feels as though Perry personally invited you to hang out and share stories.
Along with the space and set, the show is immersive. Perry is up close and personal as he shares his story with the audience, which is quite similar to the original tale. Poe’s protagonist speaks directly to the readers and begs for them to understand, so to have the protagonist in this adaptation invite the audience into his space and speak directly to them is a brilliant way to present this story.
Silberblatt is captivating as Perry. He is charming and sinister in this role, which can usually be challenging to juggle. There are moments where he’s playful and fun with the audience, but you’re always quickly reminded that this man is not what he seems. At times, it is quite frightening in the sense that the more you learn about Perry, the more you realize you’re trapped alone in a room with him. So, as funny and welcoming as he seemed when you first arrived, once Perry starts to peel back the multiple layers of this story, you see the man he truly is. I commend Silberblatt for leading this one-man show and the work he puts into making Perry such a multifaceted character.
If you’re looking for this show to be a faithful adaptation of Poe’s classic, you won’t find it here. While the play draws inspiration and overall intention from the story, this show is its own monster. I would say to be prepared for a show that is a Pittsburgh story at its core. So, while it’s a story that could only exist here, the character of Perry is universal. He is unashamedly human in both the best and the worst ways. His struggles and misgivings are recognizable. Although he succumbs to his darker side, he still has a breath of humanity. He craves validation and wants people to love him and see that his wrongdoings don’t make him a bad person. It’s sad, chilling, strange, and beautiful all at once. So, while this may not be a faithful retelling of A Tell-Tale Heart, this adaptation can be appreciated for the new light it brings to the text.
Pittsburgh Public Theater’s A Tell-Tale Heart is a spooky Pittsburgh tale that will send a shiver down your spine and leave a twinge in your soul. It’s creepy, intimate, and unusual in the best ways. For those looking for a unique way to get into the Halloween spirit, I highly suggest joining Perry for a night of beers and stories.
TICKETS AND DETAILS
A Tell-Tale Heart plays at the O’Reilly Theater in the Cultural District through November 19. Tickets can be purchased here: https://ppt.org/production/89903/a-tell-tale-heart