BWW Review: NEVERWHERE Presented By THE KNOW THEATRE OF CINCINNATI Adds Unusual Twist
Fall into the underworld of London where young businessman Richard Mayhew, played adroitly by Rory Sheridan in a debut role, finds himself after trying to save a young bleeding woman named Door in The Know Theatre's recent production of NEVERWHERE, a play by Neil Gaiman adapted by Robert Kauzlaric. Sheridan counts Gaiman as one of his favorite authors and wanted to perform in this production.
The play opens with a scene from the city's busy tube (subway). Lights blink and a soothsayer reads Mayhew's palm. Bricks with columns, trash on the sidewalk and falling lights are displayed on the streets of London. NEVERWHERE takes the viewer from an office in a London to the world below populated by snarky characters, a hooker, and two maladroit officers with clipped English accents, among others.
NEVERWHERE has some parallels to Dante's Inferno, the 14th century epic poem where the poet is guided by the ancient Roman poet Virgil through hell. Gaiman's underworld is a dark, urban labyrinth below with scenes of marshes, battles and a beast. This isn't the Wizard of Oz.
Known for its edgy plays, The Know's production of NEVERWHERE fits the bill completely. Relatively newcomer to the boards is Sheridan in the lead role as Mayhew in a regional premiere adaptation. I just saw him in CABARET at The Warsaw Federal Incline Theater where he performed admirably. He is someone to watch on the stage. Although he majored in acting at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts, he was graduated from law school. Sheridan, however, enjoys performing.
Although longer than some of Know's productions at two hours and 30 minutes, NEVERWHERE doesn't cease to capture the audience's attention. To make the transition from London to the otherworld requires ten actors who not only perform in multiple roles, but also act as set changers into a monastery, as one example.
There are many fine performances by both the leads and supporting actors, such as Dylan Shelton and Sean Mette in the heavy roles. Jeremy Dubin, a well-known actor in town, director of creative education and long-time company member at the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, plays the conniving Marquis de Carabas. He told this reviewer he knew the story and sought out Hungerford to read for the part of the Marquis de Carabas. He nailed and performed the role with his usual panache.
Sound designer Doug Borntrager added drums in the production in addition to a chirping Lord Rat and a floating market in the underworld. It is a mosaic of sight, sound and battles. A subway accident jars the senses as well as the actors. A feast for the eyes, but not for the faint of heart. Let go of the fantasy, and deal with real life issues of life, love, death and work.
Created by costume designer Noelle Johnston, garments were particularly striking on Door with lace layers in brown, beige and white as well as Dubin with a paisley waistcoat and long coat befitting his role as marquis.
The dark, urban fantasy runs from November 25 to December 17 at The Know. Co-directed by Producing Artistic Director Andrew J. Hungerford, in his fourth season at Know, and Daniel R. Winters, the play is an adventure from a modern literary master Gaiman (1960 - present) born in Portchester, England. It is also a companion novel written by Gaiman and Lenny Henry from the television serial NEVERWHERE, an all-star radio adaptation. The play was originally produced by Lifeline Theatre, Chicago, Illinois in 2010.
Gaiman has written has books, short stories, screenplays and comic strips. His honors include both the Newbery and the Carnegie medals for the same work, THE GRAVEYARD BOOK (2008). In 2013, THE OCEAN AT THE END OF THE LANE was voted Book of the Year by the British National Book Awards.
Kauzalaric is a playwright, director and actor based in Chicago. He has written more than a dozen theatrical adaptations which have been performed in the United States, Europe, Canada and Australia. His adaptation of Gaiman's NEVERWHERE received the Jeff Award for New Adaptation.
The Know Theatre is a member of The League of Cincinnati Theatres, the Theatre Communications Group and is an associate member of The National New Play Network. For more information, visit www.knowtheatre.com or call (513) 300-5669. Box office hours are 11 am - 5 pm Tuesday through Friday.