It’s one of the Bradenton area’s most lovely landmarks, but for the next few weeks it will be the setting for some grisly and spooky murders.
The Powel Crosley Estate’s resident theater company is staging an original show titled “Thrillers, Chillers and Killers,” for two weeks starting Jan. 17.
Garry Mazzu, the artistic director of the Powel Crosley Theatre, has adapted three macabre short stories into a theater presentation that takes place in rooms around the historic mansion.
Two didn’t take much adapting, Mazzu said. Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart” is written as a first-person narrative, so he was able to pretty much have an actor perform Poe’s text. The same was true of H. P . Lovecraft’s “The Rats in the Wall.”
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The third story came from a more surprising source and took some work to translate for the Crosley show.
“I found a story by Louisa May Alcott called ‘Lost in the Pyramid, or, the Mummy’s Curse,’ ” Mazzu said. “She, of course, wrote ‘Little Women,’ but apparently she liked to write thrillers.”
People who have seen shows at the Powel Crosley Estate, such as the recent Christmas show or “Murder at the Crosley,” which was a hit with audiences in 2014 and 2015, will have an idea what to expect. But newcomers might be surprised by the kind of theater that Mazzu and his company offer.
For this show, the audience gathers in the courtyard for an opening presentation by an actor portraying Gwendolyn Crosley, the wife of radio pioneer Powel Crosley. She’ll read Poe’s poem “Annabel Lee.”
I found a story by Louisa May Alcott called “Lost in the Pyramid, or, the Mummy’s Curse.” She of course wrote “Little Women,” but apparently she liked to write mystery thrillers.
Then the audience moves inside the Crosley home, where actors will perform the three stories simultaneously in different rooms. The audience will divide into groups and go from one performance to another, so different people will see the three shows in different order. Each individual play lasts about a half-hour.
“The Tell-Tale Heart,” which is performed in Gwendolyn Crosley’s actual room, is probably the best-known of the three stories. It is narrated by a murderer who dismembers her victim and hides the pieces of the body underneath floorboards. The killer is haunted by sounds of her victim’s beating heart.
“The Rats in the Walls,” performed in the library, is the story about a man who turns to murder and even cannibalism after being tormented by the sounds of rats scurrying around the walls of his new home.
The company performs “Lost in a Pyramid, or, The Mummy’s Curse” in the Great Room. It’s considered one of the early prototypes for the now-familiar stories of people who disturb a pyramid and face horrific curses from long-dead pharaohs. Alcott first published it semi-anonymously, crediting the story to “A.L.M.”
“That one I had to do some more serious adapting, for reasons of time,” Mazzu said. “It’s a three-person story, and I had to edit it to make it fit into our half-hour format.”
Mazzu said he picked the three stories not just for their creepy suspense, but also for the quality of their writing.
I do enjoy doing murder mysteries, but I like doing murder mysteries that are thought-provoking.
“I do enjoy doing murder mysteries,” he said, “but I like doing murder mysteries that are thought-provoking.”
Mazzu said the performances are appropriate for all ages except young children.
“For students who are approaching junior high school or high school, I think it’s wonderful,” he said. “We get a lot of students who are studying Edgar Allen Poe in school.”
Details: Jan. 17-29, Powel Crosley Estate, 8374 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. Various times. Matinee $18 plus service charge, Sunday through Thursday evening $18 plus service charge, Friday $25 plus service charge. 941-729-9177, bradentongulfislands.com/crosley-theater.