Off Broadway Reviews
Halloween season is a natural for the opening of The Gorey Details: A Musicale at the Century Center Theater. The show takes us into a strange and fanciful world, filled with all sorts of macabre creatures from singing and dancing bats to a Wuggly Ump. All have sprung playfully and plentifully from Edward Gorey's rich, creepy imagination. The pen and ink drawings have been brought to life by an enthusiastic cast who give this show their all, with the devotion of true admirers.
A troop of nine dancing and singing actors, playing multiple roles, have the daunting task of animating Gorey's monochromatic (with a splash of red), weird, sadistic and other worldly characters. Ogred Weary (Kevin McDermott), acting as Gorey's alter ego, fur coat and all, guides us from story to story and song to song. With the wonderful force of his strangely formal, eerie appearance and clear, slightly spooky voice, he evokes the bizarre, topsy-turvy world of Gorey's whimsical and sometimes rather gruesome tales. Murder and mayhem abound, but our storyteller is always amused.
This show is a very ambitious project. But, perhaps due to over-enthusiasm, there seems to have been a problem picking and choosing which stories to perform. There is an over-abundance of creatures from too many of Gorey's published and unpublished works. The consequence of this is that 16 stories are acted, sung and danced to varying degrees of success. At times during the production it felt like we were dealing with way too much of a good thing. My favorites were "The Frozen Man" which was wonderfully performed by Liza Shaller as Marjarilla, a hard hearted woman who falls in love with a man made of leaves and mud; "The Weeping Chandelier" which was about an abandoned teenage girl, Theodora (Alison Crowley), who travels the burlesque circuit with a troop of 3 performing bats who freed her from a locked attic; and "The Admonitory Hippopotamus" which traces the adventures of Angelica (Allison DeSalvo), who at key moments throughout her life is brought to task by a very strict floating hippopotamus. Thankfully, there is also Kevin McDermott, the narrator, whose excellent storytelling ability draws our attention back to the stage whenever some of the fuzzier performances and the incomprehensible confusion of nonsense words made me wish that time would move just a little bit faster.
This production was the culmination of a 17 year effort for producers Ken Hoyt and Kevin McDermott. It is obviously a work of love and should certainly be seen by all serious Edward Gorey fans. However, for those who are only familiar with his drawings on Channel 13's Mystery Theater and his NYC ballet t-shirts, I suggest you take a look at some of his writings before entering the theater.
The Gorey Details: A Musicale