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BWW Review: Chilling Edgar Allan Poe Musical NEVERMORE Returns to Creative Cauldron for October

BWW Review: Chilling Edgar Allan Poe Musical NEVERMORE Returns to Creative Cauldron for October

If your interest is piqued by the words "Edgar Allan Poe" and "musical" and "October", you're likely to enjoy the Matt Conner-directed NEVERMORE at Creative Cauldron. It returns seven years after its first production with a set of top-notch actors delivering chilling verses of Poe's poetry set to Conner's haunting melodies.

Though the plot is uneven and perhaps too drawn out as it explores the writer's biography in swirling tableaus that defy the concepts of time and space, the details of Poe's life aren't meant to be neatly packaged. Instead of feeding us an easily digestible biography, NEVERMORE takes us inside Poe's mind, a setting as dark and troubling as one would expect. This abstract approach lends an emotional depth to the poet's madness.

Stephen Gregory Smith, a familiar Cauldron presence, breathes tortured life into the character of Poe. Five women inhabit Poe's consciousness and drift in and out as required. The actors, all talented and captivating, distinguish themselves completely from one another: Sarah Hurley is Virginia, Poe's naive teenage bride who adores scary stories; Erin Granfield is his reliable first love Elmira; Jennifer Lyons Pagnard is "Muddy", Virginia's mother and Poe's substitute for his own late mother (Katherine Riddle); and Mary Kate Brouillet embodies the Whore, who enables Poe's vices.

Together, the cast weaves pleasing harmonies. The most satisfying numbers are familiar poems, such as "Annabel Lee" and "The Raven". There are only a few melodies that could be considered truly catchy, but this is meant to be a fluid, amorphous work. There aren't showstoppers to applaud, but there are plenty of intense moments to draw you in.

This production is visually appealing in every aspect. Actors wield quills in striking ways, with Poe sometimes writing invisible words on the different women's arms. The lighting (Lynn Joslin) is kept appropriately moody. Faux flowers adorn period costumes, and shipwrecked detritus is strewn about the intimate stage, instantly setting the scene (scenic, prop and costume design by Maggie Jervis).

NEVERMORE is a creative, intimate, mostly thrilling take on Poe's tormented life and ill-fated loves. Fans of his poetry shouldn't miss it, and it should hit the spot for anyone with a Halloween-season hankering for something spooky.

Running time: approximately 1 hour 45 minutes.

NEVERMORE runs through October 28, 2018, at Creative Cauldron at ArtSpace Falls Church, 410 South Maple Avenue, Falls Church, VA 22046. Tickets can be purchased at www.creativecauldron.org or by calling (703) 436-9948.

Photo: From left, Mary Kate Brouillet as the Whore and Stephen Gregory Smith as Edgar Allan Poe in NEVERMORE; photo courtesy of Keith Waters, Kx Photography.

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