Any area Poe fan will not want to miss the opportunity to see Nevermore now playing through Sunday at Creative Cauldron in Falls Church.
Revealed by words he wrote and by song, the story by Grace Barnes is a short biography of Edgar Allan Poe’s adult life and all the important women who haunted him.
Much like an opera, more script is delivered musically than spoken, and exceptional vocals are heard from all cast members. Composer and director Matt Connor has written an outstanding score. That some of the scenes serve dual purposes with two or more actors speaking and/or singing in tandem made for marvelous presentation.
The set is big for a small theatre, and loaded with props. The stairs and the lowly lit dark wooden environment which sometimes reverberates with the ticking of a clock, and the general layout immediately bring to mind the garret room where the writer/poet/editor may have slept and composed stories and poems when he lived in Baltimore with his first cousin, Virginia (Katie Culligan), whom he later married, and with his aunt and Virginia’s mother, Muddy (one and the same person, played by Mary Payne).
Margie Jervis and Paul Spiegelblatt are to be commended for assembling and creating lifelike surroundings and spooky lighting.
Seats for the audience surround the stage on three sides, and the night I was there, almost every one was taken.
Sean Thompson was terrific as Poe who was portrayed much more bleakly and fearful than I have come to know him. With crafty, dazed eyes and slim build, Connor’s physical characterization matched the man whose works we love. All the women were strong in delivery, sometimes too strong, and, “Muddy” sometimes seemed weak compared to the rest of the cast, most of whom almost shouted at times.
The content was melodramatic too often, and were the simulated sex scenes necessary? Oh, I forgot: sex sells. The focus on Elmira (Karissa Swanigan-Upchurch), an old girlfriend and later, Poe’s fiancee after Virginia died, was exaggerated.
Although Poe’s mother (Priscilla Cuellar) died when he was only 2, the play suggests she abandoned him much later in life since in the play, he carries without end the grudge of her absence. (Two-year-olds carry grudges? But this is a play.)
Adding immensely to the overall enjoyment of the performance was the orchestra. The musicians (piano, cello, violin) sat off center rear behind floor-to-ceiling steps/bookcase without visual interference with the action, which is as it should be. Timing was always perfect.
Of course, readings from Annabel Lee and The Raven are included, and anticipation of a real bird flying across stage, given the rest of the performance, was not unexpected. I had already calculated the entrance and exit corners as time approached. Go find out for yourself!
To cut 15 or 20 minutes from the production would make less evermore.
When: Through October 30, 2011: Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday, 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., Sunday, 4 p.m.
Where: Creative Cauldron at ArtSpace, 410 South Maple Avenue, Falls Church, Virginia
How much: $25, adults; $22, seniors and students
Parking: Plentiful and free
For more information: 571-239-5288 and [email protected]