Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Nevermore"

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note: entire contents copyright 2009 by Larry Stark


Music by Matt Connor
Book by Grace Barnes
Lyrics adapted from the writings of Edgar Allan Poe

Directed by Joe DeMita
Musical Director Jason Whiting

Scenic Design by Jim Petty
Lighting Design by PJ Strachman
Costume Design by Lindsay Hurley
Props by Emily Monroe
Make-up Design by Kaitlyn MacPherson
Assistyant Stage Manager Emily Monroe
Production Stage Manager Tina Cersosimo

Edgar................Ronny Pompeo
Virginia.............Joelle Kross
Elmira.............Ashley Yarnell
Muddy...............Kerry Farrell
Mother.............Shawna O'Brien

Violin...............Stanley Silverman
Viola..................Veronica Dicker
Cello..................Vanessa Belknap
Bass......................Tony Sumbury
Keyboard/Conductor.......Jason Whiting

When a play's done in the forest and no one reviews it, does it make a sound?
Even if it's a New England premiere? Even if this one-act chamber-opera has a thoroughly professional production, in every detail, by a serious young "Fringe" company with an impressive track-record? Perhaps not, but the people who happened to be there when this lightning-slash of art and talent oh so briefly appeared will never forget it. If "Nevermore" happens to have another, longer run, the word-of-mouth will be fantastic.

Grace Barnes' Book for this little masterpiece portrayed the life --- often inside his own head --- of Edgar Allen Poe, and Matt Connor's exciting, rhythmic music brought Poe's stories and poems alive. Yes, there was "El Dorado" and "Annabel Lee" and of course "The Raven" --- but several much less familiar --- and repeated references to "Descent into The Maelstrom". The action was, after all, inside the head of a drunk and drug-addicted romancer who created fantasies to keep the real world away. The five women in his life, including the mother who died when he was 2, the wife he married when she was 13, an "only love" he glimpsed yet barely knew, and a whore --- all appeared and disappeared in his dream-world while he talked with them about why he could never be content to live with any of them. Poe died age 40, no one knows how or why. "Nevermore" may be the last incoherent thoughts whirling through his mind as he dies.

Jim Petty's set for this show included a broken wall stage-right (remember "The Cask of Amontillado?"), and a misty, web-hung forest stage-left where a delicate writing-desk overflowed with scribblings. The women danced and flitted, appearing and disappearing through these spaces, pausing to invoke stories (remember "The Masque of The Red Death"?) or to plead for attention, to berate or disappoint, to embody loss and love.

And under and through and around it all there was music. The warm sounds of a live string-quartet, solo and in unison, combined with a synthesizer to make moods, or to underscore the insistent rhythms of Poe's poems. Music Director Jason Whiting gave full voice to the musicality and rigorous artistry of work made nearly a hundred years ago by this restless genius.

Under Joe DeMita's lyrical direction the action flowed like a jagged line across time as well as space, briefly matching story-snippets and pieces of poems with evocations of biography and self-inspection. Ronny Pompeo was of course the center of attention throughout as Edgar, but everyone connected in any way with this production, down to scene-painters, prop-mistress or assistant stage-manager, was a star. Lindsay Hurley's vivid, accurate 1800's costumes and Kaitlyn MacPherson's expressionist make-up were particularly effective. Poe's somber black jacket, for instance, was split down the back revealing a slash of bright red-and-white print silk, as though mirroring the split, tormented mind of its wearer.

The F.U.D.G.E. Theatre Company ("Friends United Developing Genuine Entertainment") is a small gem on the Boston theater scene willing to take on hard challenges and demanding enough to do excellent work. And the fudge they make is gloriously addictive. Catch them if you can!

( a k a larry stark )

"Nevermore" (5 - 8 November)
@ New Repertory Theatre's Black Box, 200 Dexter Avenue, WATERTOWN MA
1 (781)245-0500

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