Nevermore is not so much a play as it is an experience. The intimacy of the Actor’s Preparatory Exchange’s blackbox style theatre thrusts the viewer into the room as Edgar Allen Poe’s life becomes an amalgamation of his greatest works.
The play begins with Poe, Mark Stewart, arriving at the home of his childhood friend Monty. The estate where Poe had wasted away the days of his youth, first with Monty, played by Slater Bonner, and then with Monty’s lovely sister Lenore.
Poe is shocked to learn that Monty intends to sell the manor because he has no liquid assets, but his mannerisms suggest he did not just come to help his old pal pack up and have one last hurrah. Soon after his arrival, Poe is confronted by the surly, drunk of a caretaker Dudley. Dudley, played by John Lamb, plants a seed in Poe’s head that Lenore is not in fact travelling abroad, but slain by her own brother’s hands. Nothing is as it seems in Nevermore, written by Matt Ritchey.
Nevermore is the directorial debut of Josh Carpenter, an education major at TJC. Carpenter is a veteran of screen and stage in both New York and Los Angeles, last appearing in APEX’s Rent and on screen in the Downtown Tyler Film Festival fan favorite “The Blind Artist.”
John Lamb, who plays Dudley, described the stage as a pop-up book. Fans of Tim Burton’s early work will immediately identify with the stage design, with faux walls and windows jumping out at the audience.
“The thing with a black box theatre is that your acting is not as broad, your acting is very intimate. It is very subtle, it teaches your actor to tone it down, which is very good for the film world … the whole wall we created is like a huge bay window into Montress Manor,” said Carpenter.
Although Carpenter’s resume certainly speaks for itself, he is tackling his new role with all the zest of a man who has something to prove. Carpenter oversees every minute detail from lighting to placement of props and even poster design. During rehearsal he pushed his actors to dig deep, crouching nearby egging them on by forcing them to hear the horrible ordeals their backstory provides while they practiced the most emotional scenes. The results were phenomenal. Megan Clark Hutchings, playing Lenore, becomes the embodiment of fury in one scene and as fragile as a china doll in the next. Poe paces nervously, making the audience uneasy as they sense their protagonist may not be the hero after all. To top it all off, Carpenter infused the set with a subtle steampunk aesthetic, utilizing those pieces on key props which catch the eye, but never distract the viewer.
Carpenter has taken Matt Ritchey’s original play and turned it into a truly haunting and nail-biting experience.
Nevermore opens Jan. 18 for Edgar Allen Poe’s birthday and runs through Saturday, Jan. 25.
The APEX Theatre is located at 719 West Front Street, Ste. 20, at the rear of the Energy Building. Tickets can be found at www.apextheatre20.com or at the door.
[wzslider autoplay=”true” lightbox=”true”]