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`Ancient House' is a funky take on `Usher'

A simple set, some haunting conversation, and a chilling scream at the end. This is "An Ancient House," an original play written by Nathan Briggs and performed by the Plan-B Theatre Company at Bibliotect. Briggs based his work on "The Fall of the House of Usher."

When Edgar Allan Poe is invited to visit Roderick Usher and his twin sister Madeline, he arrives on the ghostly scene (white chiffon draped over window frames) to find the Ushers ailing. Madeline, played by Natalie Anderson, is fading fast. Her eyes roll back. She looks drugged and demented. Roderick, played by John Woodhouse, has more energy but is, if possible, crazier.They don't seem to know who they are. She recites men's lines, then seems to be playing the part of each of her brother's previous wives. Incest and murder are implied. Poe gets into the act, reciting lines from some of his poems. Eventually he and Usher kind of take turns being the author who has stumbled into the horror story of his own making.

Nothing much happens. The conversation goes around in circular fashion, the mysteries are interesting in a literary sort of way, and just when you get comfortable with the "My Dinner With Andre at Halloween" format, the end comes. The end is both startling and campy - campy due to an unfortunately low-budget strobe light.

All in all, this is a fun and funky production.

Tracey Michael Hall is the director. She also does the makeup, which is effective, and the sound, (along with Randy Rasmussen), which has some amateurish moments. Ann Ciemenski is the stage manager/costume designer. Victoria Goro designed the set and Randy Podosek did the lights.

The three characters are all good actors. Zeke Totland, who plays Poe, has an intriguing voice. It carries beautifully, without him ever raising it, so that he seems as if he is telling a story, maybe writing the story in his head, not acting.

Also intriguing is the setting. The Bibliotect bookstore contains a deli/coffee bar. The range of treats available at intermission beats anything the big theaters are selling.

Inside the program, Plan-B begs for help in finding a new place to perform. Sitting cozily in the audience, sipping a warm drink and watching some fine actors spin out an eerie fantasy, you have to respond, "No, don't move." This ancient house is a pleasant place to visit.