Director Chrissy Eliason lives a double life. During the day she manages a pest company, and at night she terrifies theater audiences during live theater shows. This month’s (two-legged) victims are Edgar Allan Poe fans. 

“Poe’s way of writing is just something that has always resonated with me,” she said.

Eliason, who’s the office manager at NEW-TEC Pest Management, created Cognac and Roses: A Toast to Edgar Allan Poe, a live theater show, four years ago as a fundraiser for Flowertown. Now she has revived it for the Piccolo Spoleto Festival, during which audiences can see performances at Threshold Repertory Theatre through June 11. 

“Paul O’Brien at Threshold called and asked me if I would be willing to bring it back to life,” Eliason said. “And of course I said yes.”

Cognac and Roses features back-to-back retellings of The Tell-Tale Heart and The Black Cat that also serve as a study of criminality and the insane.

“We have the guys dressed up in prison outfits,” Eliason said. “Their arms are handcuffed to a metal table as they’re telling their story of murder.”

Viewer discretion is advised: Eliason also decided to include a couple of bizarre videos in the show, one that happens during the performance of the Poe poem Alone.

“The video has artists throughout the years that have died or killed themselves,” Eliason said, “or [artists] just tortured with their writings.”

She said the actor doing the reading, Tara D. Holewegner, wanted to make this video to go with her performance. “Instead of her actually performing the piece,” Eliason said of Holewegner, “it’s now turned into a video piece that is just very powerful. Poe moves you in so many different ways, and this is how this poem moved her to create this video of tortured artists.”

Eliason is confident that Cognac and Roses will keep you on the edge of your seat.

“It’s very intense,” she said.

Gabriel Veiga is a graduate student in the Goldring Arts Journalism and Communications Program at Syracuse University.

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