The phrase "Once upon a midnight dreary" immediately conjures up images of darkness and despair. This famous opening line to Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven" draws readers into the poet's melancholy world. Music Theatre of Madison's production of Nevermore (through June 1 at the Bartell Theatre) offers a glimpse into Poe's tortured mind by depicting his relationships with women.
The production introduces us to each of Poe's relationships in a non-linear format. Nevermore clues us into the writer's destructive tendencies, showing a dismal outcome for every romantic endeavor.
Jakob Aebly's musical direction sets the production's somber tone. From the opening scene, violin, cello and piano create an evocative soundtrack for the drama. The play begins with Poe surrounded by women vying for his attention, and Aebly's score effectively communicates the tension.
Poe's toxic proclivities are traced back to his maternal relationship. As the writer's mother passed away when he was only four, he found himself plagued by self-indulgence and depression. The complexity of the mother-son relationship is well developed through volatile fights and expressions of tenderness. Matthew Fayfer and Meghan Randolph have great chemistry in their portrayal of this explosive connection.
Raven Albrecht's expertly crafted costume design features hoop skirts, tailcoats, and a slew of ornate accessories. The musical's early Victorian-era stylings, compliments of Albrecht's local shop Ravenworks, lent a steampunk air and a sense of historical authenticity.
Nevermore is a delight for Poe fans and musical theater lovers alike. Don't miss this provocative journey into the psyche of a troubled and brilliant American author.