Foothill’s ‘Evermore’ leaves feeling of wanting more
“Quoth the raven, ‘Nevermore.'” So reads Edgar Allan Poe’s most well-known line from his poem, “The Raven.” However, the title of the Foothill Theater Company’s world premier production about Poe – “Evermore” – more readily expresses my sentiment about this fabulously original and creative play.
This is a piece that deserves to be produced ever more – it is fresh, lively, literate, interesting and even educational. What more can one want from great theater?
Gary Wright, the creative pen behind the play, has taken historical fact and blended it with supposition to give us his vision of the mischievous, loving, perhaps mad, often drunk and vengeful mind behind such macabre and intriguing pieces as “The Tell-Tale Heart,” “The Pit and the Pendulum” and “The Raven.” Wright also lets us eavesdrop on the tenderness between Poe and his wife, Virginia, the subject of Poe’s most wondrous love poem, “Annabel Lee.”
Wright’s clever mixing of past and present events, and their occasional intercession, allows for better character development than if the story were conveyed chronologically. And director Jon Tracy’s magical, off-beat staging optimizes Wright’s, at times, fanciful story. The wonderfully geometrical and spare set, perfect period costumes and excellent lighting enhance the theatrical experience, tying it all together.
But as good as the writing and directing are, without the superb cast the play might not have resonated quite so strongly with me.
The actors exhibit tight ensemble work, flawless timing and obvious relish. The always excellent Ted Barton is the complex and devious Rufus Griswold, Poe’s editor, who actually reviles the writer after Poe dies at the youngish age of 40.
Poe himself is portrayed by Eric Wheeler, who wonderfully illuminates the manic/depressive aspects of Poe’s psyche, as well as his adoration for his wife, Virginia, marvelously and beguilingly incarnated by Elana Wright.
And Leslie Ann Rivers creates a very believably aggrieved and mourning mother-in-law to Poe.
When Wheeler-as-Poe recites – no, lives and breathes – “The Raven,” I realized I had never really understood it until that moment. In fact, the playwright incorporates a number of Poe’s pieces, and you don’t have to know Poe’s work or be a Poe fan to relish their intriguing incorporation into the play’s flow.
I plan to see this play again before it closes. It is one of the best Foothill Theater productions I’ve seen. “Evermore” continues at the Nevada Theatre through Oct. 28.
Hindi Greenberg was an English major in college and read most of Edgar Allan Poe writings, although some of them scared her, raising the hair on the back of her neck. But now she intends to read every one of his pieces again, without fear or tingling spine.
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