When I hear the phrase "one-man show," my mind immediately flashes to a dozen different sitcom versions of one-man shows, where the production is always a bit of self-indulgent tripe. I knew I wouldn't get that from the guys behind Re-Animator... I just didn't really know what I'd get with Nevermore.
Nevermore is a one-man show starring Jeffrey Combs, directed by Stuart Gordon, and written by Dennis Paoli. Combs plays Edgar Allan Poe performing a live recital of his own works, something the author did frequently in his own time when he needed drinking money. Over the course of Nevermore, Combs's Poe devolves into a drunken, blithering mess. While there is no evidence that Poe ever did this during his real recitals, this isn't a historical reenactment; this is entertainment. And entertaining it is.
As an admirer of Jeffrey Combs's for years, I was eager to see him perform. But from the moment he walked onto the stage, he was Poe. The costume (taken from the Masters of Horror episode in which he played Poe), the subtle prosthetics, the hint of arrogance in his voice... I saw no Jeffrey Combs in there. As well as reciting several of Poe's most famous works (including The Tell-Tale Heart, "Annabelle Lee" and, of course, "The Raven"), Combs's Poe ruminates on lost love. The recital set not long after the death of his beloved wife. By the end of the show he believes he is speaking to her in the audience.
The show runs about 90 minutes with no intermission, and there are a few parts that drag just a bit. It could just be my ADD, but I felt like there were a few "false endings." Luckily every time my mind would begin to drift, Poe would erupt into a bitter tirade about how he lacked the fame and wealth of his contemporaries; or succumb to a tragic pratfall, and I would be sucked right back in.
Live theater - especially small, intimate shows such as this - make me nervous because if an actor is bad or the play is bad, I feel like the actor can sense my embarrassment for them. Within minutes of the start of Nevermore, I realized that would not be an issue. The play is dark and entertaining, with a surprising mix of both humor and tragedy.
Nevermore plays at the Steve Allen Theater in Los Angeles on the third Thursday of every month. The next show will be on June 21st. You can purchase tickets directly at trepanyhouse.org.