Bar Harbor Times, July 26, 1990

Cabaret's Dead Poets is good, lively fun

by Elizabeth Roundy

BAR HARBOR - Is it possible to take the words of three diverse poets, set them to music and then weave it all into a story with an interesting plot?

It's a pretty tall, not to mention unusual, order, but once again the Unusual Cabaret has proven it's up to such a challenge.

One of their new productions, Dead Poets: The Story of Walt, Em and Eddie, manages to create an engaging musical story with the words and personalities of Walt Whitman, Edgar Allan Poe and Emily Dickinson.

From the moment John Kafumann enters as the dreamy idealist Whitman who longs for adventure, he infuses the tiny stage with energy and enthusiasm. Even before the audience knows where this play is headed, they begin looking forward to the trip. Whitman is soon joined by fearful, diffident Dickinson, played winningly by Inger Hatlen, and eventually joined by Jeff Goode, as the tortured madman Poe. This powerful trio is accompanied on their literary, musical journey by Gina Kaufmann on violin and Jon Price on piano.

The music, written by Price, adds a pleasing rhythm and style to the words these poets wrote more than a century ago, without detracting or trivializing the subjects they were attempting to illuminate. And Goode's story line manages to weave the songs together in a smooth, cohesive manner.

Director Gina Kaufmann has done well in the confined quarters of the cabaret-style stage. She has created an easy flow and synchronized pattern of movement which compliments the music and allows the characters to mingle with the audience and draw them into the action. At one point, the cast even stages a rousing sing-along which literally gets the audience into the act.

Dead Poets is not truly a comedy, but rather a showcase for some of the most beautiful poetic phrases ever penned; but there are subtle touches of humor throughout, which make the whole show as palatable as the sumptuous desserts the restaurant also serves up.

Hatlen, Kaufmann and Goode work well together, blending their voices equally in the complicated harmonies and modulating their roles so that none overpowers the other.

In Dead Poets, which will play every Tuesday and Sunday nights, the Unusual Cabaret has given dinner-theater-goers yet another reason to be thankful for this new arrival on the Bar Harbor entertainment scene. Their hilarious comedy Escape from Eldorado plays on Friday and Saturday nights; Wednesday and Thursday nights they perform their fractured fairy tale version of Rumpelstiltskin. For dinner reservations, show tickets or information, call 288-3306.