Edgar Oliver - East 10th Street: Self-Portrait of an Empty House

This article is from 2009

East 10th Street

Crow-like bohemian performance artist with a taste for the deliciously gothic

In New York City’s avant garde theatre circles, Edgar Oliver is known as the Poe of East Village. Forenames aside, it’s easy to see why. Born half a century ago in Savannah, Georgia, Oliver is a self-styled bohemian who affects a gothic southern states aristocratic manner in both his speech (slow and deliberate with a hint of Bela Lugosi) and appearance (crow-like and clothed in black). It’s Oliver’s art, however, that generates the comparisons with Poe. Since moving to New York in 1977, he’s written over a dozen plays (including The Drowning Pages which starred Deborah Harry in 2000) and published numerous books of poetry as well as making movies (such as I Am a Coffin) and appearing regularly as a performance artist.

Oliver’s latest play, East 10th Street: Self-Portrait of an Empty House, sounds like his eeriest flight of gothic fancy yet. It’s a one-man show about the large, crumbling brownstone Oliver has lived in for the last three decades and is now the sole living resident of. It’s haunted, of course, by its tenant’s memories of the wet nurse who went mad, an ‘invisible man’ who was never seen nor heard and homicidal brothers who plotted to murder the playwright. The show’s on its way to Edinburgh fresh from a sell-out Off Broadway run. Be prepared to be afraid. Very afraid.

Traverse Theatre, Cambridge Street, 0131 228 1404, 7–24 Aug (not 10, 17–23), various times, £14–£16 (£5–£11). Preview 6 Aug, 11.15am, £10 (£5).

East 10th Street

  • 3 stars

NYC theatre icon Edgar Oliver weaves a fantastical and hilarious voyage through an East Village tenement building inhabited by dwarfs, cabalists and possible Nazis! 'A living work of theater all by himself' (New York Times).

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