Young Edgar Allan Poe (Joseph Gilbert) has writer’s block. Fortunately, a letter from a childhood friend has provided a distraction. Poe arrives at Montressor mansion where his friend Monty Montressor (Briton Green) is deeply wrapped in the business of selling the estate with the help of his lawyer Mr. Catherwood (Steve Peterson). The environment is deeply nostalgic for Poe, muted only by the unsettling lurking of Dudley (William Knight), Monty’s caretaker.
Poe and Monty fall right back into the comfortable friendship of their youth. However, between secret sips of laudanum and unexplained bumps in the night, Poe slowly begins to remember that his friendship with Monty was fraught with great turbulence and pain. Both men are reminded of the disease in their past with every monition of Lenore (Chloe Whiteford), Monty’s sister who has been travelling throughout every corner of Europe.
Both men seem to be willing to let the tensions between them stay in the past, until Dudley not so subtly hints that there’s something buried in the basement. Someone is buried in the basement. Moreover, he knew who them there. Alas, the chess game betweens between Monty and Poe to see who will get to keep their secrets – if those secrets indeed remain concealed.
Nevermore is loosely structured on the Poe tale "The Fall of the House of Usher", where a visitor answers the summons of an ailing friend, only to become entangled in the strange dealings of said friend and his twin sister. The play cleverly references several of Poe’s more famous works, with the character Catherwood literally reciting several lines of "The Raven".
As a fictional musing to explore the long suffering contention that someone other than Poe authored his short stories, writer/director Matthew Mahaffey’s plot twists playfully along without taking a path to how the writer will meet that contention. Nevermore is a decent production. There are pacing issues prevent the piece from mustering any real dramatic tense. This entire cast gives committed, energetic performances that, for me, ultimately succumb to the play’s prevailing languid tone. The show’s momentum is further encumbered by numerous fairly involved set changes. Finding a way to consolidate these transitions would help alot.
My date thoroughly enjoyed Nevermore. He knew the stories of Poe and was connecting the dots the entire time, wondering how it would play out. He had a way into this fictionalization of Young Poe’s life that people like me, who walked in cold, did not. So I think it is safe to say anyone well versed in the literary works, life and times of Edgar Allan Poe will quite enjoy this production.
Nevermore runs now through Saturday, February 5, 2011 at:
El Centro Theatre Chaplin Stage
804 N. El Centro
Los Angeles, CA 90038
Fridays & Saturdays @ 8pm
Sundays @ 2pm
Running time: 90 minutes with no intermission.
Reservations: (323) 960-1055
Photo credits: Diane Becker