May 03, 2005

And a show

Ages ago (which is to say about a week and a half), I went to see a show here called Through the eyes of a raven, based on Poe's poem, by Doug Porter. Looking back at it, it feels like a surreal dream.

I've sort of been putting off writing about it*****, because I'm not sure what to say. I definitely felt like I would've appreciated it more had I ever read Poe's "The Raven", although I suppose I've seen enough cultural references and Simpsons Halloween specials* to get the basic gist. Reading the original, though, would at least give me a better idea of what parts were Doug's additions. It seemed quite clear that portions were direct quotations, and equally clear that others weren't; I just didn't know where the line was.

Eric Feltes as the Raven was a scene stealer throughout. From the time he leapt sidewise onto the stage, clad in a black cloak that he occasionally flapped for effect, to the time he perched right on the edge of the desk, he quite effectively portrayed a completely inhuman character. (Excellent costume and makeup work, on him and the others too.) I think in the final tally he had a sound majority of the lines; generally I was happy with their delivery, although every time he quoted "Nevermore", something about how he said it set off my "acting too hard" alarms. I'm not even sure why, because going into this show I wouldn't have expected a single word to be able to do that.

The interaction between Lenore and the protagonist was bizarrely interesting. After a brief prologue that sets the stage of their relationship, she returns in a scrappy, ragged shadow of her former self, both there and not there. The protagonist stages his conversation with the raven, but also with her ghost; he is speaking right to her, and yet does not see her. For her part, she is speaking the words that he (and we) hear from the raven, but cannot make him feel her as the source, or even her presence at all. Nick Perry and Beth Golemo pulled off the whole there/not there thing really well, I thought.

The whole show certainly left me with a feeling of despair and disturbance, but what was it about? I'm not even sure, really.** At the surface layer, that's the easy one, protagonist loses his fiancée to an early death (of tuberculosis or some similar 19th century disease), and he misses her terribly. Down a level: he remembers her on a pedestal and holds an unhealthy obsession with how she was, and fears that love---once held, now lost---would be forever again denied him. My understanding of the original indicates that both these were present there too, in some measure.

This presentation seemed to furnish another layer beneath that, though, and that's where I get a little lost. Lenore was definitely speaking most (not all) of the words that were heard to come from the Raven, and she was definitely presented as being a ghost or the like. But what did she want? At the time, I got the impression that she wanted him to let go a little so he could move on with his life, though I'm not now sure why I thought that. The clearest indication was that she wanted him to be able to see her. As a ghost? Or just see that it was her saying these things, not the raven? And how to interpret the fact that some of the raven's raving was not lip-synched by her---stuff the raven came up with on his own?

In retrospect, as I think about this, the raven was really acting pretty sadistic, especially with the "nevermore"s. Death and loneliness are yours forever, protagonist! Cheers!

To close on a slightly brighter note, I wanted to say I got a kick out of the set. Using just a chair rail and crown moulding between bookcases to simulate an entire wall---and convincingly, at that---that's pretty clever.

*Which, I suppose, is a cultural reference too.

**Here again, reading the poem might help---one of these days, I will....

***Eh, don't believe it, I enjoy every minute of it. Who needs fifteen minutes of fame when you can have fifteen regular readers of your blog?

****Don't you agree?

*****Indeed, writing this was really frustrating, because I keep feeling like maybe I just wasn't paying enough attention that night. While writing it I considered scrapping it, but I'd already promised several of you that it was on its way---it seems I've become a victim of my own hobby. :P***

"We should not only happily sign over what we owe the IRS, knowing our money goes to even greater good than the coins Jesus exhorted those around him to turn over, but we should look for ways to be even more charitable to those around us. If everything---including our wealth---is a gift from God, we have no right to begrudge any portion of it to the disadvantaged. We didn't earn it through superior virtue." --Chris Tessone

Posted by blahedo at 12:19am on 3 May 2005
The poem is not that long. Just a couple of pages in a book. Read it aloud! link While you are at it, read Annabel Lee too: link

Poe did not believe in writing long poems. If it seems long, then it is not a poem, or at least not a successful one. How can one overact if your directions are, "But the raven, sitting lonely on that placid bust, spoke only That one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour."

Posted by lee at 7:05am on 3 May 2005
Thanks for the props on the set. (no pun intended.) It was certainly an interesting experience designing and building that. Who'd have thought hanging moulding would get so hard with nothing to attach it to? Posted by Chelsea at 12:39am on 4 May 2005
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