Sunday, January 14, 2018

Review of Black Button Eyes Productions' Nevermore

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Nevermore. It was written and composed by Jonathan Christenson. It was directed by Ed Rutherford. The musical director was Nick Sula and the choreographer was Derek Van Barham. It was about Edgar Allan Poe's (Kevin Webb) life, but dramatized so it sounded more like his poems and stories. It is about tragedy, poor choices, and what it means to have talent. I have never seen a musical about Edgar Allan Poe before, but I studied him for a while and know a lot about his life. This show made me think differently about his life and how different things in his stories could have related to exaggerations of his actual life.

I found it interesting how they combined "The Tell-Tale Heart" and Jock Allan (Matt McNabb), Poe's foster father. "The Tell-Tale Heart" is my favorite Poe story, and it was cool how they connected Poe's terror of his foster father with the story of a man who was repulsed and compelled by an old man's eye. The terror that he felt about his foster father wasn't just about how he behaved, but in the show it was about how he looked. He had a glowing swirl eyepatch that looked sort of hypnotic. He wanted to Poe to be a strong businessman, but this wasn't what Poe wanted. And he had a song about that, "Jock Allan's Advice," which was visually stunning. In addition to the glowing eyepatch, there were people playing automatons (Jessica Lauren Fisher and Ryan Lanning), who were sort of like his minions. He told them what to do, and they were wearing business suits. The man was wearing a top hat that had gears in it, that seemed to be his brain, that Jock Allan tightened occasionally. It had a little door in it and there was a light in the hat so you could see each gear; it was all very eerie. The costumes and masks (Beth Laske-Miller) and the props and puppets (Rachelle "Rocky" Kolecke) were absolutely beautiful and creepy.

Elmira (Megan DeLay) and Sissy (a mannequin moved and spoken for by Maiko Terazawa) were both like Annabel Lee because they were part of love stories that went wrong. They are each half of the character in the poem. Elmira was taken away from Poe by her "highborn kinsmen" because they thought he wasn't good enough for her. There's a line in the poem where he says "chilling and killing my Annabel Lee," and his wife, Sissy, died of tuberculosis, and because tuberculosis gives you a fever it would be chilling and killing her. Also the poem says, "I was a child and she was a child," but really it should be "She was a child and I was twice her age" because he was 26 and Sissy was 13 when they got married. Elmira and Poe had been like two baby goths in love because they liked to hang out in graveyards and talk about death. And it is really interesting how the poem "Annabel Lee" romanticizes all the women Poe is with, because the reality is darker than a kingdom by the sea.

At the end the first act, when Poe is thinking about how he wants to be a poet and is full of hope, they take down these white cloths and attach them to his back so he looks like the angel Israfel. He just wants to be as good of a poet as this angel. But it is not really possible because angels are thought of as the height of glory and the height of goodness, so it is pretty hard if you want to be as good as an angel. At the end of the show when Poe has died they take down these black wings and attach them, so he is more like the Raven. The Raven represents darkness and the truth and the darkness of the truth. The truth is that life is not as beautiful and innocent as you might want it to be. Being a poet for Poe is not as romantic as he thought; it doesn't bring fame and it doesn't bring happiness. You only get to escape your real life for a little bit. It is sort of like theater.

People who would like this show are people who like ravens, the darkness of poetry, and child mannequin brides. I think this is a very intriguing and original story. It was really fun to watch and I enjoyed it.

Photos: Cole Simon

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