Edgar in the Red Room: A Macabre Cabaret by Matt Chiorini

This Play is the copyright of the Author and must NOT be Performed without the Author's PRIOR consent

A Macabre Cabaret
By Matt Chiorini, based on the works of E.A. Poe
Music by Greg Giovanini and Matt Chiorini
A broken, haunted place with the feeling of dread and decay. A chorus of Poe’s and Ravens take the stage to sing the prologue

A dark and fathomed tide
Of interminable pride
Of mystery and a dream
Should my early life seem, should seem, should seem

I say that dream was fraught
With a wild and waking thought
Of beings that have been
Which my spirit hath not seen, not seen, not seen

And I let them pass me by
But with a dreaming eye
Could none of earth inherit
The vision of my spirit. My spirit, my spirit
song ends with Writer slumped against the lamp post that we’ll see throughout the play

WRITER: (to audience)
No one wants to die alone, but my end had come. And may God help me, I welcomed it.
From childhood’s hour I have not been as others were. I have not seen as others saw, I could not bring my passions from a common spring—From that same source I have not taken; My sorrow I could not awaken; my heart to joy at the same tone, so all I lov’d, I lov’d alone.
I felt that I breathed a very atmosphere of sorrow

Leaves a single white rose at a grave

And so being deeply in love with folly, I drowned myself in melancholy.
And is there any melancholy more luxurious in which to drown than the gentle dream of ale?

Another bottle of juniper and amber, I would drain that glass again.
Such hilarious visions clambered through the chamber of my brain
Quaintest thoughts — queerest fancies come to life and then fade away;
What care I how time advances? I am drinking ale today.

Another bottle of juniper and amber, I would drain that glass again.
Such hilarious visions clambered through the chamber of my brain
Quaintest thoughts — queerest fancies come to life and then fade away;
What care I how time advances? I am drinking ale today.

Writer loses himself in ale, found passed out drunk in an alley propped up on a gaslight.

I became insane, with long intervals of horrible sanity. My Misery was manifold and the wretchedness of earth, to me, seemed multiform. My original soul seemed, at once, to take its flight from my body; and a more than fiendish malevolence, gin-nurtured, thrilled every fibre of my frame. That maiden I had lost had lived with no other thought than to love and be loved by me and now she lay beneath the earth.

My waking hours were spent in misery, and in those few moments when I was able to sleep, I was plagued by nightmarish visions of an avian avatar of doom. This black bird of sorrow seemed to stalk me ever closer, ever closer.

single black feather falls. He holds it.

And then, as I stood on the brink of a precipice, peering into the welcoming abyss, a message somehow found me.

Roderick Usher appears, reading letter aloud

USHER: (to audience)
My best loved and indeed, my only personal friend. I don’t want to alarm you, but my fate is closing in, from outside, from inside, fate has its meeting place in the person of Roderick Usher.
Roderick Usher. We had been, as boys at school, intimate associates, but many years had passed since last we spoke.

USHER: (to audience)
In my unnerved pitiable condition, I feel that the period will sooner or later arrive when I must abandon my life and my reason altogether, in some struggle with the grim phantasm, terror. Please come to me at once. I believe you to hold the key to my health, and I hope that you can join me immediately, and without delay.

Roderick Usher called out to me from across the vale of years. Roused from my morbid torpor, I was suddenly filled with purpose, and I decided to obey forthwith this very singular summons.

I had been riding alone on horseback, through a singularly dreary tract of country where the clouds hung low; and at length found myself, as the shades of the evening drew on, in an utterly desolate valley. I felt an iciness, a sinking, a sickening of my heart--an unredeemed dreariness of thought which no goading of the imagination could torture into aught of the sublime.
I had entered the realms of the House of Usher.

Writer approaches as house reveals itself
In olden times, long ago
Palace banners from ramparts flew
The monarchs thoughts, sweet and fair
His palace stood proudly there
And wanderers thorugh windows saw
Spirits move to
The ruler and the king,
the wit and wisdom of the scene
Evil things in robes of sorrow
o let us mourn, but never morrow
assailed the monarchs high estate
Shall dawn upon him desolate
And round about his, home the glory
is but a dim remembered story
That blushed and the bloomed
the story of the old time entombed
And travelers within that valley
through red windows see
vast forms that move fantastic alleys
To a discordant melody
While, like a ghastly rapid river,
A hideous throng rush out forever,
Through the pale door
And laugh—but smile no more.

The house of Usher was a haunted palace, remote in a dim and forsaken valley, surrounded by shadowy woods, an abandoned place of pride and perversity.

I looked upon the scene before me--upon the mere house, and the simple landscape features of the domain--upon the bleak walls--upon the vacant eye-like windows--and upon a few white trunks of decayed trees--with an utter depression of soul which I can compare to no earthly sensation. It had an atmosphere that had no affinity with heaven.

Writer arrives at door, answered by a nervous Roderick Usher
Is it really you? I thought…I feared that you would not arrive in time.
In time for what, Roderick?

But now you’re here, my great friend and rescuer. Forgive me, you’ve had a long journey, we must see to your bodily comforts. What can I provide for you?

I am happy to see you, friend, but you needn’t bother yourself on my account. Do you not keep servants here?

No. I am entirely alone in the House of Usher. This is why your arrival is such a great relief to me now, especially now. We’ll be together.
Of course, Roderick. But why especially now? Relief of what? From what?
From this constitutional, family evil, and one for which I have despaired to find a remedy. My friend, I am beset by a morbid acuteness of the senses, which displays itself in a host of unnatural sensations. Every sound alarms me, every odor oppresses me, my eyes are tortured by even the faintest light. To an anomalous species of doom I find myself bound.
Roderick, I had no idea you suffered so.
But now you are here, and you are the key to my restoration. Your companionship shall be a respite from my oppressive solitude and the endless ticking of the hours.
Roderick, In all of these years since last we met, have you been alone here? Have you not traveled, or sought the company of others?
There is nowhere else for me to go. This house is my legacy, my birthright. I am so grateful for your company and I hope your stay may be a long one. (a clock chimes) The hour is late, so I shall show you to your room and bid you goodnight.
Thank you Roderick, my journey has been long and my nerves are unsettled. Before we part, might I request a drop of gin, strictly for purposes of sleep?

Oh, I’m afraid not. The house is well provisioned by not with spirits.
No liquors of any kind? For medicinal purposes, you understand, my physician is quite adamant on this subject. My nerves, you see.

No liquor is kept in this house or has been for many years.
I see. Perhaps if there is a town nearby then…
There is no living soul left in this valley, and we are, like this house, utterly alone in this country. I can fetch you a cup of tea, if you think it would soothe you to sleep?
You are most kind, Usher, but I shall decline your offer of….tea.

I’m sure that a deep slumber awaits you regardless.
Yes, of course.

A clock chimes

Another night is here. (takes something small from a pocket, plunks it into an urn, it clinks. Sees writer looking). It’s nothing, just a little ritual of mine, to track the days and count down the nights. (looking into the urn) And it seems that ou are here just in time. I’ll show you to your room.

They walk through the house, until they arrive at the guest room door. We change Poe’s and get confused through this sequence.

Follow me closely, if you would. While you are my guest, please consider this home to be as your own, but I must warn you that this house is a puzzle box, a corridor may seem a thousand miles long, and then turn up short to a blackened mirror, its length but a reflection of the darkness. Nothing within these walls can be trusted and doors that are shut are best kept so. It’s an old house, and it holds close its’ secrets. I bid you a good night. I am glad you are here, we shall be good company for each other.

WRITER (to audience)
And with that, Usher and I parted, and I heard him walk to his room down the hall and then the loud and certain sound of a lock barring his chamber door with a rather unsettling determination.
Echoing sound of a heavy door locking ominously

WRITER (to audience, as he lies in bed, visions around him)
The room in which I found myself was very large and lofty. Feeble gleams of encrimsoned light made their way through the trellised panes. Dark draperies hung upon the walls. The general furniture was comfortless, antique, and tattered. An air of stern, deep, and irredeemable gloom pervaded all.
the sound of a clock, clocks all around.
A strange terror controlled me as somewhere in the vast and empty house a clock ticked away the night hours with ceaseless efficiency. The sleepless night was alive with a thousand minute sounds and yet it was dark -- all dark -- the intense and utter raylessness of the night that endureth for evermore.

Unable to sleep, unable to wake, I felt the presence of the sorrowful creature of my nightmares encroaching into the shadow of my chamber

A single black feather falls from the sky

As the hours ticked by and I lay sleepless, I began to hear what I thought was the faintest scratching at my door. The scratching intensified and at last, I went to the door. (opening the door)

we reveal a veiled figure in white, holding 3 Tarot cards, which she leaves behind as she disappears.

There I saw her. I regarded her with an utter astonishment not unmingled with dread — as my eyes followed her retreating steps. She was gone. In her absence, she had left behind three cards of curious design.

I regarded these cards and knew at once what they were: Tarot cards. The faded ink on the reverse indicated that these cards were from the personal deck of one Prospero Usher.

As we proceed, Prospero Usher is revealed, slowly dealing Tarot cards with a lit candle

At school, I was well familiar with the whisperings of the boys about the supposed sinister history of Roderick’s ancestor but I’d paid them no heed. The tales were so fantastical as to be ludicrous. As a skeptic by nature, I hold no truck with mysticism of any kind but, laying out these cards, arranged in this precise order, I began to see their story unfold before me as though I were reading a book.

First card revealed: the magician

Once there had been a town in this valley, living in the shadow of the crumbling mansion of Prospero Usher. Alone and sleepless in the monstrous house, he was a recluse, and an eccentric, and, it was rumored, one who had burrowed deep into forgotten lore, studying all manner of arts esoteric and occult.

second card revealed: the judgment

After years of plenty, a great sickness befell the land, and The “Red Death” devastated the country. The people of the town felt that this plague was a horrible judgment upon them for no pestilence had ever been so fatal, or so hideous. Blood was its Avatar and its seal — the redness and the horror of blood. None were immune, it seemed, save the sole resident of the House of Usher, brooding alone over his experiments and secrets.

third card revealed: the tower

The people of the country arrived at his door, and demanded entrance.

A faceless mob approaches the door, chants in unison

Save us, Usher. We demand your protection
You must give us refuge, save us from infection!

Their pounding about his door became unbearable, and at last, he deigned to address the rabble.

PROSPERO (peering out of the door)
The house of Usher admits no visitors or guests
You must leave me in peace, make no demands or requests
My house is full of secrets arcane and old
These secrets do not permit themselves to be told

Save us, Usher. We demand your protection
You must give us refuge, save us from infection!

I’ve heard of this plague, but it’s not my concern
Go back to your homes, to your village return
My walls are thick and my doors remain locked
My supplies are sufficient, my cellars are stocked.

Save us, Usher. We demand your protection
You must give us refuge, save us from infection!

I can attempt a vaccine, and seek out a cure
If that’s what you want, you must be totally sure.
I’ll allow you to stay here, as you requested
But once I’ve created a cure, I’ll need your help to test it.

People vanish through the doorway as scene shifts back to the Writer and the cards

And so the people of the countryside fled the plague to ensconce themselves within the mighty walls of the House of Usher and the oaken doors locked heavily behind them.

The door shuts

It was then that I noticed that a message had been written on the wooden floorboard upon the dust below where the cards had lain: “run” (closes door). I lay awake considering what I had been shown or what this message meant as I awaited the cruel first light of my second day in the House of Usher.

Script Finder

Male Roles:

Female Roles:

Browse Library

About Stageplays

Stageplays offers you the largest collection of Plays & Musicals in the world.

Based in the UK and the USA, we’ve been serving the online theatre community since the last century. We’re primarily a family-run business and several of us also work in professional theatre.

But we’re all passionate about theatre and we all work hard to share that passion with you and the world’s online community.

Subscribe to our theatre newsletter

We'll email you regular details of new plays and half-price special offers on a broad range of theatre titles.


We can deliver any play in print to any country in the world - and we ship from both the US and the UK.

© 2010 - 2024 Stageplays, Inc.