By: Paulanne Simmons
When a writer focuses on the macabre as much as Edgar Allan Poe did, it’s inevitable that readers will try to discover what caused such a fixation. In Poe’s case, there are indeed many unfortunate events that might have contributed to his melancholy disposition. And Jonathan Christenson, who wrote the book and lyrics, and composed the music for Nevermore: The Imaginary Life and Mysterious Death of Edgar Allan Poe, seems to have found all of them.
An ensemble cast of seven, directed by Christenson, plays Poe, his mother, father, sister, brother, aunt, uncle, girlfriends and a few others. The doubling, tripling (and sometimes a whole pileup) in the casting is not too difficult as so many of the principals end up dead. By the end of the show you can’t help feeling sorry for the guy, even if he did drink himself to death.
But that’s not all. Poe also suffered from abandonment, false love and bad experiences with various animals. Can you blame him for writing "The Fall of the House of Usher"?
Poe’s life is told as a flashback on the night of his death. There is little dialogue. The story is mostly narrated, but even the narration is kept to a minimum. Poe’s life is chiefly illuminated in a pop/rock victorian score, similar to the one
that worked so well in Jekyll and Hyde.
But the real stand-outs in this production are the design elements by Bretta Gerecke. Somewhat bizarre, elaborately victorian, the black and white costumes, with their wire exoskeletons, look like what might happen when punk meets fetish. The set, with those conveniently sliding doors, mixes whimsy with weird. The makeup is straight from the netherworld.
If atmosphere alone could produce a gripping play, Nevermore would have it made. But plays also needs a story, and the one Christenson tells is only intermittently interesting. After a while we become as bored with Poe’s problems as with a friend who won’t stop complaining.
This quirky musical had been traveling around Europe and the States quite a bit before it lighted at New World Stages. And here it rest for evermore… or as long as it can sell tickets.
Photos: Ryan Parker FOLLOW US ON FACEBOOK