In 2006, the musical Nevermore, with music by Matt Conner and book by Grace Barnes featuring lyrics adapted from the writings of Edgar Allan Poe, made its live theatre debut. In northern Virginia.
What’s wrong with this story? Ask any Baltimorean – Poe is ours. Yet somehow the musical ran in Virginia, England, and even Australia. Never Baltimore.
After a 16-year wait, Stillpointe Theatre is to thank for Nevermore’s Baltimore debut. Director Ryan Haase, along with the talented cast and crew, have delivered a cryptic and immersive experience to finish their 13th season.
Nevermore isn’t a full biography, but an end-of-life dream as the women in his life confront him and lay his demons bare from mommy issues to alcoholism and narcissism. The digital program’s dramaturgical notes help provide context before the performance begins and includes a link to the most comprehensive dramaturgical resource, I have witnessed in a production courtesy of Stillpointe’s resident dramaturg, Christine Demuth.
The late 1800s factory space of Area 405 has been transformed into a candlelit performance area that draws the audience right into Poe’s mind. The absence of a backstage area adds to the immersive effect, with the performers seated on the outskirts of the space when not on stage. Amanda Rife’s movement coordination gives the company multiple points of chaos to explore, ensuring that there’s always something to catch the eye.
The live orchestra of five musicians, led by music director Ryan Michael Haase, establishes the atmosphere with a haunting score, which only grows in intensity as the show progresses. The ensemble numbers, with their dissonant harmonies, are particularly memorable, drawing the audience deeper into the madness that engulfs Poe.
As Poe, Bobby Libby exceptionally captures the writer’s descent into madness. He navigates the character’s mood swings, alcoholism, and moments of intense movement with ease, while flawlessly singing through the score, glass of whiskey in hand.
Surrounding Poe are the ghosts of five meaningful women: Christine Demuth, as Elmira, Poe’s first love, expertly transforms from a flirty teenager to a nostalgic widow with a charming Southern accent. Caitlin Weaver’s doe-eyed performance as Poe’s teenage wife, Virginia, moves from infatuated to intimidated by Poe’s madness. Kristen Zwobot haunts and taunts Poe as his late mother, while Kay-Megan Washington has a no-nonsense demeanor as Virginia’s mother and Poe’s aunt, Muddy. Rounding out the ghosts of women past is Rachel Blank, passionately enabling whatever escape Poe desires as “the whore.”
Stillpointe’s production of Nevermore brings Poe and his work to life in a captivating way and is a must-see for Poe fans and theatre enthusiasts alike.
Photo courtesy Stillpointe Theater: Bobby Libby as Edgar Allen Poe.
Nevermore runs through May 6th at Area 405. Visit stillpointetheatre.com for tickets.
Theatre Writer for Baltimore OUTloud.
Bekah is a Baltimore-based ally who is obsessed with all things Broadway. In addition to written reviews, she creates social media theatre content @broadwaybekahchica. When she’s not at a show or organizing her Playbills, you can find her rehearsing with the New Wave Singers of Baltimore, enjoying stoop night with friends, or snuggled up with her husband and pets.
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