Just in time for All Hallow's Eve, Theatre Unleashed offers a "secret history" of the most macabre of America's poets--Edgar Allan Poe. It even opened on the anniversary of the man's mysterious death.
Nevermore, by Matt Ritchey, becomes equal parts mystery and mind game pretty much from the very start. Poe (Michael Lutheran) arrives at the estate of his childhood friend Montresor (David Foy Bauer) for a visit. Upon the wall we see a portrait of the host's sister, Lenore (Elise Golgowski).
Fans of Mr. Poe should already feel alerted. The easter eggs will keep on coming (some not even from Poe's own works).
When I call this a secret history, let me be precise. The play intends to tell of events unrecorded in Poe's life, revealing a supposed "truth" about the man and his entire career. Dudley (David Caprita), the estate's sinister butler, and Montresor's attorney Catherwood (Courtney Sarah Bell) make up the rest of the cast.
More, this doesn't "feel" at all like the gothic tales we often think on--the Draculas and Frankensteins, the Dorian Grays and Dr. Jekylls. Such remains our stereotypes of the gothic, firmly rooted in the Old World. But Poe was an American to his fingertips and even his tales set abroad don't "feel" European somehow. Class, for example, simply isn't as front and center. Our sexual conflicts, likewise, arise not from a Roman Catholic perspective but rather a history of Puritanism. The differences can be subtle, but very real. It even shows in Gregory Crafts' set design, with a lack of the traditional Victorian flourishes and bric-a-brac. American homes, even those of the very wealthy, tended towards less ornamentation, less flamboyance.
I really want to praise Courtney Sara Bell for going an extra mile, because as written her character seems little more than a placeholder with some personality. She took it further, making an interesting and compelling person who fits into the overall tale--this eccentric story of odd people caught up in strange events.
Nevermore plays Thursdays through Saturdays at 8pm until November 5, 2016 at the Belfry Stage, upstairs at 11031 Camarillo Street (west of Lankershim), North Hollywood CA 91602.