Charleston Stage Presents Nevermore

Renae Brabham

A gentle breeze wafted the succulent aromas down East Bay Street and straight into Don's flaring nose. He had one thing on his mind at the time. Oysters. We were soon seated at the community table at Pearlz Oyster Bar for a few ales and oysters. 


Shells cracked, bottles clanked, and conversation cranked. The community table, as its title suggests, soon becomes affably just that as Desiree, a traveling nurse from West Virginia visiting Charleston, shared her coned and newspaper lined home-cooked fries with us. 
Soon it was time to hobble the cobble down Queen and Church streets to our destination, the Dock Street Theatre. I have been so excited about this event: opening night of playwright Julian Wile's Nevermore, Edgar Allen Poe, The Final Mystery. I mean really, Charleston, Halloween and Poe go together like plough mud, hermit crabs and lost flip flops. 
The theatre candelabra lighting was wrapped in webs. The curtains hung silent without noticeable movement as we read our brochures. My anticipation climbed as the lights dimmed. A curtain between two worlds, givers and takers if you will. The view from Poe's world on the other side of the curtains, summed up with his own words. “And the silken, sad, uncertain rustling of each purple curtain, Thrilled me—filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before.”
Very little is known about Poe's stay on Sullivan's Island, records amount to fragmented paragraphs. Perhaps it was the fear of producing a stage play of this enormity from those few paragraphs that caused Playwright Julian Wiles to hit the proverbial wall, writer's block to the point of almost canceling the production. In desperation Julian Wiles tapped out a scene about writer's block. This scene dissolved the clot from stylus to paper, providing the path that webbed together the story of Edgar Allen Poe's triumphs and tragedies. Stage sets and costumery were incredible. I was so enthralled with a particular magical appearance scene that it left me whispering to Don as we do when we watch David Blaine. "Did you see the switch off?" He shook his head no. 
New York Guest Equity Actor Andrew Gorell's performance as Edgar Allan Poe was stellar, leaving me both as charged as the Energizer bunny and as low as Davy Jones locker. He boarded us early onto the wings of the Raven, weaving the tumultuous ride of Poe's highs and lows brilliantly. Without mentioning the entire cast, I note that in addition to Gorell, Scott Gibbs as Captain Jeremiah Reynolds, Harrison Grant, and Cathy Ardrey in their respective roles were standouts. The entire unmentioned ensemble performed well, albeit a few opening night jitters. 
We were on the last scene of the play, scene #7. Knowing a’forehand that the ending of Edgar Allan Poe's life was mysterious, dark, and daunting, I had resigned myself to the dark horse finale. Julian Wiles, cast, and ensemble led us expectantly to the edge of Poe's pit. The veneer that lies between witnessing the very moment that a brilliant light dims and crosses over to the other side. Surprisingly at the point where you think you should start feeling around your seat and the floor for your purse and jacket, Julian Wiles erased the darkness that would have trailed with us out onto the gas lantern-lit Charleston streets. 
Nevermore runs October 19 -November 4, 2012. 
Photo courtesy of Charleston Stage (l to r): New York Guest Equity Actor Andrew Gorell as Edgar Allan Poe and Charleston Stage Resident Actor Josh Harris as Captain Amos Nimrod.