Theater Notes: Imagining Poe's last night

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The facts of Edgar Allan Poe's death are an enduring real-life mystery. The writer of works such as "The Tell-Tale Heart," "The Raven" and "The Fall of the House of Usher" is said to have been in sudden distress for a couple of days, whispered, "Lord, help my poor soul," and then died at age 40 on Oct. 7, 1849.

According to, his cause of death was ascribed to "congestion of the brain." No autopsy was performed on the master of horror, although many theories have formed in the ensuing 165 years. David Crawford tackles the mystery as writer and star of the solo show "Poe's Last Night," directed by Monteze Freeland for Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre Company.

The play opens this weekend, 8 tonight and Saturday night, at Playwrights' third-floor home at 937 Liberty Ave., and continues at 8 p.m. Thursday and next Friday, 3 and 8 p.m. Jan. 18 and 5 p.m. Jan. 19 -- Edgar Allan Poe's birthday. Advance tickets are $25, $20 for seniors and students; add $5 to tickets sold at the door. More at

Gibson in 'Bessie Smith'

Obie Award-winning actor Edwin Lee Gibson, who makes Pittsburgh his home base these days, is out of town for a time for a role in Edward Albee's rarely performed 1959 play, "The Death of Bessie Smith," through Jan. 19. The New York Times calls the drama "an apocryphal account of how Smith, the black early-20th-century blues singer, was denied treatment at a whites-only hospital." The New Brooklyn Theater production will benefit the bankrupt Interfaith Medical Center, a small community hospital that serves poor and black patients from Bedford-Stuyvesant. More at

Sharon Eberson; or 412-263-1960.

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