Off-Broadway Review: “A Scythe of Time” at the New York Musical Festival

Joseph Verlezza

  • OnStage New York Critic

Creating a musical based on two Edgar Allen Poe short stories, “How to Write a Blackwood Article” and “A Predicament,” is no easy task given the subject matter and the genre. In this day and age, competing with horror films - given the amazing special effects available - trying to frighten, shock or terrify an audience with a stage play (let alone a musical) seems nearly impossible. The talented team of Alan Harris (book) and Mark Alan Swanson (music and lyrics) enlists the challenge and has created “A Scythe of Time,” skirting the issue mentioned above by incorporating some camp and comedy. The result as a whole might be considered unbalanced, lacking in character development and relationships, but the plot is certainly entertaining splattered with comedic overtures, absurd situations and exposing sensational, tabloid journalism. The skeleton of the story addresses themes of artistic integrity, business ethics, narcissism, power, allegiance and devotion. The music has a pop rock feel reminiscent of Frank Wildhorn which keeps the production moving at a good clip, but lacks a good solid anthem or ballad that is memorable and provides a climax. The dramatic arc lacks intensity.

 Photo: Danny Rutigliano, Lesli Margherita and PJ Griffith. Credit: Russ Rowland.

Photo: Danny Rutigliano, Lesli Margherita and PJ Griffith. Credit: Russ Rowland.

This production is blessed with an incredible cast that discovers all the necessary elements bequeathed them by the deft direction of David Alpert. Lesli Margherita’s depiction of Zenobia is just plain remarkable, demonstrating her instinctive craft as an actor and an incomparable vocal that is striking in power and purity. P.J. Griffith is a perfect counterpart as Blackwood, developing a despicable character with a robust stride and vigorous vocal. Danny Rutigliano develops a stalwart character in Pompey, strong and vulnerable, but coaxing humor out of the most horrific situations. Matt Dengler creates an appealing Malachi with a soothing vocal and intentional determination. The ensemble is finely tuned and serves the product with undeniable commitment. Lighting by Nick Solyom is moody as it casts evil shadows. Costumes by Lindsey McWilliams are spot on and the scenic design by Starlet Jacobs uses the small stage to capture an eerie atmosphere.  

At this stage of development it is clear that there is promise in this new musical. Sure it needs some major attention especially with the sketchy book and weak character motivation but nothing that cannot result in a successful product. Listening to the music one can imagine full, lush orchestrations and with the addition of more melodic and lyrical musical numbers there is a hopeful future. Catch the last performance if possible, it is certainly worth a look.  


The cast of “A Scythe of Time” includes Lesli Margherita, PJ Griffith, Matt Dengler, Brandon Brune, Blair Alexis Brown, Emily Claire Hughes, Danny Rutigliano, and Alex Syiek. The creative team includes: Starlet Jacobs (Set Design), Lindsay McWilliams (Costume Designer), Nick Solyom (Lighting Designer), David M. Lawson (Sound Designer), Dan Scully (Projection Design), Marisa Levy (Production Stage Manager), Lisa Dozier King (General Manager), Michael Cassara (Casting). “A Scythe of Time” is produced by Nicole Swanson. Production photos by Russ Rowland.

Tickets are $27.50 and can be purchased by visiting Running time is 90 minutes without intermission.