Oct 222007

You May Die Laughing At ‘Gorey’ Performance, Kathy L. Greenburg (The Tampa Tribune. October 22nd, 2007)


Jobsite Theater has evoked the world of Edward Gorey for its 2007-08 season opener — traditionally creepy-crawly for Halloween — and what a delightfully wicked world it is.

”Gorey Stories,” directed by David M. Jenkins, is more fun than a barrel of jellied monkey eyes or waiting for the Great Pumpkin to arrive.

Picture, if you will, guests gathered for a parlor party on a palette of blacks, whites and grays. For entertainment, the guests, who look as if they’re members of the Addams family, take turns narrating and performing 18 limericks, stories and poems written by Edward Gorey.

True to the illustrator-author’s tongue-in-cheek humor, the vignettes depart from the innocent play of bygone gentility and turn toward the dark side. Nursery rhyme monsters, orphaned children and murderous adults collide in an energetic improvisation of the undead: No child is safe once kidnapped by the mind-altering Insect God. Illiteracy would run rampant if teachers used ”The Gashlycrumb Tinies” to teach the ABCs (”A” is for Amy, who fell down the stairs; ”B” is for Basil, assaulted by bears. …).

Through spoken word, song and dance, the cast portrays willful carnage and debauchery with lively humor. They seem to revel in the chance to perform as unsupervised, naughty children in a ”Lord of the Flies” underworld.

Summer Bohnenkamp-Jenkins (Mona) perfects the grim pout of a ticked-off dead girl, while Steve Garland conjures the spirit of Anne Rice’s vampire Lestat for his part as Jasper Ankle, a fey and fun-loving opera fan. Jason Vaughan Evans is droll as C.F. Earbrass, a decrepit writer who appreciates the vehicular capabilities of rolling desk chairs. The rest of the cast equally embraces the melodrama and hyperexaggeration of their roles, fueling an evening of nonstop laughter, a few inhalations of shock and a standing ovation at the end.

Jenkins’ production presents great contrasts in culture, from the three-piece orchestra (Angela S. Lakin, Christina Chen, Zi Ning) that perform classical music while hatchets are raised to arias and chorals about death and devastation. Even the genteel tradition of oral storytelling is turned on its head with cheeky gestures. These directorial twists only serve to complement Gorey’s penchant for irony, as well as to lure the audience into a false sense of propriety.

Furthering this dark weirdness are costume designs by Katrina Stevenson (who also played Lady Celia) and Brian Smallheer’s set and lighting, which incorporates Gorey’s distinctive illustrations and shadowy imagery. With just a screen, the actors and a change in lighting, Smallheer creates clever, sometimes bawdy, silhouettes. The effect is like turning a page in a book and finding a picture as fantastic as the story being told.

Tickets are still available here.  If you haven’t purchased your tickets yet, please consider getting them for our (current) final weekend.  Pre-sales for that weekend are what will determine if we extend an additional week or not.

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