As a disclaimer, I am not a professed Edgar Allan Poe fanatic. I enjoy his work very much but I cannot claim to be an enthusiast.
Nevermore, written, composed and directed by Jonathan Christenson was a look into the imaginary life and mysterious death of Edgar Allan Poe. Christenson sought to bring the audience into a world where the macabre gears within Poe’s mind churned. Production designer Bretta Gerecke took Christenson’s vision and set a simple stage: six panels and strategic lighting.
Sound designer Wade Staples accentuated the actor’s portrayal of Poe’s compatriots while flaunting very Poe-vian costumes. Eerie ravens, horse heads, large and decrepit hats all came together like a scene out of a Tim Burton film. To me, it was the right amount of eerie and weird.
The play began with Edgar Allan Poe (Scott Shpeley), lost and alone until he is met with strangers who claim to have known his mother. Edgar is confused by their knowledge and asks them to remind him of his past. With this, the audience is taken into an intimate narration of Edgar’s earliest years in Boston and onto his last breath in Baltimore.
Shpeley portrays Edgar as a pessimist trying to battle against his “tender heart and gentle disposition.” Edgar is a tormented man, not just by his own inner visions but from the difficult life that continuously beats him. The musical is a narration of his life.
The audience was left to imagine Edgar’s feelings through each setback, and it reminded me of the emotions that we experience when reading his work. Delving into someone’s mind via art is a imaginary process, I enjoyed that the musical followed that vein.
The performance covered many facets of Edgar’s complicated life. Important female figures such as Edgar’s mother, Eliza Poe (Lindsie VanWinkle), his foster mother Fanny Allan (Beth Graham), his high school sweetheart Elmira Royster (Shannon Blanchet), his cousin-bride Sissy Clemm (Beth Graham), sister Rosalie Poe (Beth Graham), and aunt Muddy Clemm (Lindsie VanWinkle) culminated into the many but sparse lights that at times brought Poe out of his own darkness. Each actress had the right amount of humor attached to the strangeness of their performances that, again, can be described as Poe-vian.
Edgar’s male counterparts included his father, David Poe (Garett Ross), his foster father Jock Allan (Garett Ross), his ever-optimistic brother Henry Poe (Garelan Beatty) and the infamous Rufus Griswold (Ryan Parker). Aside from Henry, the men that influenced Edgar’s development were inclined toward evil, drinking or defamation. Each actor delved into his character and pushed Edgar further toward his odd obsessions.
In addition to their many roles, each actor also participated in the ensemble. Narrating Edgar’s life, the audience was left to look through their own glass to understand Edgar’s deadly inclinations. The musical was an avenue of understanding of Edgar Allan Poe’s life, in a way that was visually appealing and I hummed the music for a few hours after leaving.I am unsure if an Edgar Allan Poe fanatic would approve of the tribute but I left feeling as if I understood some of Edgar’s torment. The play was strange, odd and a bit long but it held laughter, pity, and eerie decadence very well.
Review By: Alexandra Lipari
Photos By: Joan Marcus