There are two things you should know right away about Brat Productions' Haunted Poe: First, it's not scary so much as creepy, and second, I never even saw the roaches. To me, these are two very good things; to you, maybe not. The roaches, 4,000 of them, were cast courtesy of the Insectarium on Frankford Avenue, and have so far been the stars of Haunted Poe's preproduction press.
But really, the roaches make up just a fraction of the scene created during a 40-minute haunted house tour that leads through a winding series of tableaux featuring 13 of Edgar Allan Poe's works. It's a huge project - 10,000 dimly lighted square feet designed by Brad Helm, with a correspondingly huge cast. Populated by a cross section of Philadelphia theater artists from Barrymore winners to novices, Brat's warehouse labyrinth features smoky hallways and zombie-ridden graveyards that open into Hitchcockian-filmed vignettes (by local filmmaker Andrew Repasky McElhinney) and magical illusions. The cumulative effect is disorienting and discomfiting, which, considering the delicate state of Poe's own mental health and bouts with alcoholism, seems appropriate.