Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Tell tale with heart — SoHi play is love story, good-and-evil struggle over Edgar Allan Poe

By Jenny Neyman
Redoubt Reporter

The last days of Edgar Allan Poe’s life remain a mystery, 159 years after his death. He disappeared for five days in 1849. When he was found, he was incoherent and died a short while later.

Was it alcohol poisoning, as was the theory of the day? Or rabies, as new speculation holds? Or maybe it was something even more dramatic than that.

“Nevermore,” a play by Julian Wiles staged this weekend at Soldotna High School, speculates that Poe spent the last few days of his earthly existence fighting over his fate in the hereafter.

“It’s an exploration of what might have happened,” said Mike Druce, SoHi drama teacher. “The idea behind it is that Nimrod is trying to win his soul to the dark side. To do that, he’s driving Poe crazy by making him relive incidents from his stories.”

Poe’s love interest in the play, Annabel Lee, is fighting against the evil Nimrod to save Poe’s soul, creating a classic tale of good vs. evil, set against a backdrop of Poe’s work.
“It was an interesting concept, a little bit different from what we’ve done before,” Druce said. “It looked like it would be fun to do.”

The play intersperses the narrative tale of Poe’s life with scenes from his work, including “The Telltale Heart,” and some of his more obscure poetry. Twenty SoHi students, from freshmen through seniors, play 52 different roles in the production.

The show is staged in the round, meaning the audience sits onstage surrounding the actors. It makes for an intimate setting, but presents some challenges in a show that requires magicesque slight of hand in some scenes.

“We’ve had to improvise a few things,” Druce said. “I think one of the interesting things for our show is technically, I think our production is probably more technically challenging than the original.”

Druce saw photos of the first production of “Nevermore,” which looked like it was staged more simply than SoHi’s adaptation, with bodies disappearing from coffins, slight-of-hand tricks, multimedia slide projections, and a giant mask that, well, you’ll have to watch the show to find out.

“Our set is a challenge. Trying to switch a body onstage with people sitting 10 feet away is a little tricky,” Druce said.

“Nevermore” will be performed at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday in the SoHi auditorium. The show runs about one hour, 20 minutes. Tickets are $5 at the door, and there’s only seating for 100 people each night.

The cast consists of Jeff Melvin, Chrissy Smith, Cati Smith, Jessiah Steffy, Nick Tesch, Dillon Ball, Alex Wilson, Britt Wilson, Emily Raffa, Kevin Oelrich, Joshua Rutten, Autumn Ball, Katelyn Jordan, Brian Folley, Briana VinZant, Lizzie McDermid, Kelly Thomas, Sarah Anderson, Keegan Eshleman, Delana Duncan and Holly Jenkins.

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