On Halloween, my friend and fellow writer Foxglove and I drove 8 hours to Boston, Massachusetts so we could see a play. For one night only, Jeffrey Combs, of Star Trek and Re-Animator fame, was performing a masterpiece called NEVERMORE: An Evening with Edgar Allan Poe at the Somerville Theater.
I confess that I had no idea what to expect. Plays are not my forte; I’m never sure what is going to happen or how it will be presented. But I enjoyed Mr. Combs’s work on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and always liked Edgar Allan Poe’s tales of the macabre. And, since there was a good chance this would be the last time the play would be performed, Fox and I decided this was too good of an opportunity to pass up.
We were not disappointed.
The director, Stuart Gordon, stated: “NEVERMORE is our attempt to recreate the public recitals that Edgar Allan Poe presented… Our text is taken from his own letters and essays and we have based our evening on reviews and reports of his actual appearances.” So the performance was of Jeffrey Combs playing Edgar Allan Poe giving a performance to a Boston audience in 1848. (Whew! Try saying that three times fast.)
Whenever I think of Edgar Allan Poe, I envision a dour, tortured, occasionally frenzied figure. With the dark subject matter of his most popular works, like “The Black Cat,” “The Tell-Tale Heart,” or “The Fall of the House of Usher,” this image is understandable. What I didn’t expect was for Poe to be funny! Mr. Combs’s brilliant performance ran the gambit of human emotion, showcasing not just Poe’s incredible literary talent, but his history as well.
We witnessed the myriad facets of Poe: a slightly shy Southern gentleman devoted to his mother’s memory. A brilliant actor performing “The Tell-Tale Heart” like you have never seen it before. A poverty-stricken author ranting about the privileged hacks of his time and lamenting the tyranny of the dollar. An alcoholic whose drunken dance rendition of “The Bells” had us rolling in the aisles. A hopeless romantic dedicating reams of beautiful poetry to the loves in his life. A grief-stricken husband still mourning the loss of his wife. A lonely soul terrified of the demons that hounded the low points of his life, which culminated in his penultimate work, “The Raven.”
In this way, Edgar Allan Poe was transformed from a literary figure into a living, breathing human who amused us, enraptured us, terrified us, and broke our hearts. It was, in a word, genius. My only regret is that I probably will not be able to see it performed again. And so, I want to extend my deepest thanks to NEVERMORE‘s writer Dennis Paoli, director Stuart Gordon, producers Izzy Lee & Bryan Moore, associate producer Mark Redfield, our hosts at the Somerville Theater, and most especially to its actor Jeffrey Combs for bringing Edgar Allan Poe back to life. Bravo!
UPDATE 05/31/2015: So far, this is the only video I’ve seen of the Boston performance. (It only includes highlights, but you can at least get an idea of what it was like.)