Alan Harris (Book) and Mark Alan Swanson’s (Music and Lyrics) A Scythe of Time is completely unhinged, but oh so producible. This unorthodox goth twister is based on Edgar Allan Poe’s two short stories “How to Write a Blackwood Article” and “A Predicament.” This show follows along the lines of Gorey Stories, Edwin Drood, Bat Boy, Sweeney Todd, Jekyell and Hyde and Hadestown down at New York Theatre Workshop.
The time is 1881 and we are in England, as people are committing suicide thanks to magazine editor Blackwood (P.J. Griffith). This egomaniacal psyciopath has learned that sensationalism sells and he is paying writers to share their experiences with death as they drown, hang and oft themselves. Blackwood is also scheming to become the only publisher in England, with stakes on taking over the world. Signora Psyche Zenobia (Lesli Margherita) is the last publisher in England and decides she must figure out these Blackwood articles are derived. When she visits Blackwood she becomes sucked up into writing or pretending to write one of these articles. However things do not go as planned and she becomes a talking head. In the end she succeeds but at what price.
What makes this show so good is it’s hysterically witty, smart, tunefully interesting and so perfectly well acted. My only critique would be to add more for Malachi (Matt Dengler) Blackwood’s partners son and foil. Meeting Malachi’s father once things take a turn, might also add some fun. The show is only 90 minutes so there is room to play
I bow down to Lesli Margherita, you are a star. I was never a fan of Matilda and she was a terrific as Mona in Dames at Sea, but here she really shows her chops, as she creates a character that is bold, sympathetic and real. Her vocals are sublime and her comic timing layered and full speed ahead. As Blackwood, P.J. Griffith is the perfect villain. He seduces with his vocals and lures us in with his acting skills. He is hard to resist. Matt Dengler as Malachi, left us wanting more. The most interesting part of the evening was the performance by Alex Guhde as Pompey, Zenobia’s man servant. It seems Danny Rutigliano was ill so the assistant director in less than a day took over the role. She was amazing. Off book, Ms. Guhde created a character that was interesting and had I not been told that this had happened, I might not have known. Bravo on a job well done. Not to be forgotten she may have been a puppet, but Diana, Zenobia’s precious dog, barked her way into our hearts.
David Alpert (If/Then) was the perfect director, who kept the right balance between humor, morose, musical theatre and thriller. Starlet Jacobs’ set, projections by Dan Scully and lighting by Nick Solyom allowed for a lot of simplistic stage magic, which was essential. It was clean and well done. Lindsay McWilliams gothic period costumes were so well designed and thought out and made this production ready to move with little change. The orchestrations by Ryan Cantrell and the music by Mr. Swanson are musically satisfying.
Mark my words expect to see A Scythe of Time being picked up and at a theatre near you with a much longer run. I’m only sorry I could not send you to see this show sooner.
A Scythe of Time: June Havoc Theatre, 312 West 36th St. Closed