Production Both Clever And Creepy, Marty Clear (The St. Petersburg Times. October 24th, 2007)
TAMPA – It’s hard to call a singularly monochromatic stage production colorful. But it’s hard to call Gorey Stories anything else.
Jobsite Theater has stripped away any hint of color from its stage design for this anthology of works by Edward Gorey, an author of wry, macabre stories, poems and songs and an illustrator of unsettling pen-and-ink scenes. He’s probably best known for his artwork at the opening of the PBS series Mystery.
The production at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center is amply amusing, full of Gorey’s dry wit and benignly disturbing characterizations. But by far the most striking elements are visual.
Katrina Stevenson’s lush pseudo-Victorian costumes are in black, white, gray and silver. Brian Smallheer’s set – “painted” with felt-tip pens – is gray and black, with slightly off-kilter patterns. The actors are in white-face with black accents, and their hair is glistening white or pitch black.
The effect is ghastly, humorous and strangely beautiful. It’s a collision of Dr. Seuss, Charles Addams and Edvard Munch. Combine that look with Gorey’s morbid but jaunty stories, verse and songs, and you end up with a memorable theater experience.
The idea is that guests at a party take it upon themselves to act out or otherwise relate 18 Gorey works. But it feels like being dropped into an alternate universe populated by perverse humanoids with sensibilities askew.
It’s entertaining and deliciously creepy, and the large cast (mostly Jobsite regulars) is wonderful. But the show is not entirely successful. The stylized delivery sometimes makes the dialogue hard to understand, and that problem is exacerbated during ensemble recitations. If the synchronization is off the tiniest bit, the words become muddled and the odd charm of Gorey’s dense writing is compromised.
Also, some of the longer stories are less compelling. Most of that happens in the first act. The second act, a group of pieces that supposedly make up a novel one of the guests is writing, is fast-paced and engaging, and ends with a wonderful, funny alphabet song in which guests gleefully relate all the horrific ways in which their friends have died.
The Saturday show this weekend is now sold out. We do, however, anticipate having “rush” tickets available for the performance tomorrow night. Students, Seniors, and members of the Military can get reduced price tickets 30 minutes prior to curtain with proper identification. Normally $24.50, these tickets sell for $10. It’s a great deal if you fall into one of those categories.