Sunday, May 27, 2018
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Review: Jobsite Theater's 'Gorey Stories' is a twisted treat

If you're an Edward Gorey fan, you're probably already planning to see Jobsite Theater's new production of Gorey Stories, the deliciously macabre celebration of his art, prose and verse.

If you're not a Gorey fan, though, there's still plenty of amusement to be had from Gorey's tales of Victorian perversity, and from this re-staging of the show that Jobsite first mounted four years ago.

Gorey, who died in 2000, is most widely known for his black-and-white illustrations for the PBS series Mystery. They're unsettling works, both elegant and whimsical.

The same holds true for his writing. He can write an alphabetic litany of gruesome deaths involving children, from Anna to Zach, that makes you snicker rather than shudder. It's that bizarre combination of horror and whimsy that makes Gorey's writing so appealing.

Playwright Stephen Currens turned some of Gorey's engaging poems and short (sometimes extremely short) stories into a cabaret inhabited by creepy but non-threatening creatures. Some of the verses have been turned into songs here, with music by David Aldrich.

For this production, Jobsite has pared the cast down from nine (which is what the playwright suggests) to five, with no apparent deleterious effect.

In fact, the smaller cast probably benefits the show. Many of the pieces have the entire cast speaking in unison. In the original Jobsite staging, it was hard to understand the verse, because the actors weren't keeping in perfect time and the words became incoherent. That's still a problem with the smaller cast occasionally, but not as often.

A bigger problem is that the three-piece onstage band (piano, drums and bass) sometimes drowns out the actors, and even when they don't, the drums often drown out the piano and bass.

Costumer Katrina Stevenson (who is also part of the ensemble cast) has reprised her gorgeously Gothic formal garb, all blacks, white and grays. They're a beautiful interpretation of Gorey's Goth-flavored line drawings. The black-and-white makeup that all five actors wear is effective, too, but it makes them look more like zombies or corpses than Gorey's creepy sun-starved aristocrats.

The entire cast of Jobsite regulars — besides Stevenson there's Michael C. McGreevey, Amy Gray, Summer Bohnenkamp-Jenkins, Jason Evans and Spencer Meyers, directed by David M. Jenkins — are a hoot to watch, individually and together.

For this new staging, Jobsite has added an "encore" of songs from the Tiger Lillies' show The Gorey End. Gorey, the story goes, had sent the Tiger Lillies some of his lyrics and invited then to put them to music. They premiered the resulting cabaret show three years after his death.

That epilogue is one of the most thoroughly enjoyable segments of the evening. One has to wonder why Jobsite didn't just stage The Gorey End instead of re-staging Gorey Stories, but it's great to get a taste of it at least.

Times correspondent Marty Clear can be reached at [email protected]

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