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The Gorey Details

Reviewed by Irene Backalenick

Presented by Ken Hoyt and Kevin McDermott, in association with Brent Peek, at the Century Center for the Performing Arts, 111 E. 15 St., NYC. Opened Oct. 16 for an open run.

The word "macabre" is often used in reference to author/illustrator Edward Gorey—and certainly applies to his current "musicale" at the Century Center for the Performing Arts. Other adjectives also come to mind: singular, spooky, bewitching.

For loyal members of the Gorey cult, "The Gorey Details" should prove highly satisfactory, but if one seeks order, depth, and meaning to a production, this random selection of pieces falls short.

Gorey's stories and artwork have been transmuted faithfully from one medium to the other, from print to stage, courtesy of the author and his collaborators. Under Daniel Levans' direction, the music of Peter Matz, with Jesse Poleshuck's sets, Martha Bromelmeier's costumes, and Craig Kennedy's lighting, it's all of a piece. And the gifted actors (Alison Crowley, Allison DeSalvo, Matt Kuehl, Daniel C. Levine, Kevin McDermott, Ben Nordstrom, Liza Shaller, Clare Stollak, and Christopher Youngsman) get it just right, turning themselves into two-dimensional drawings that match the decor. All elements are true to the Gorey vision.

The fun begins even before the show is under way. The proscenium curtain of drapes, tassels, and flying bats is drawn in Gorey's delicate, crosshatch style. The set is an elegant Edwardian sitting room with two-dimensional fireplace and bookshelves—a proper setting for strange tales that feature headless men and haunted messages, charming children and demented divas.

Initially this world seems childlike—protected and innocent. One soon discovers, however, that its children are frequently abandoned or snatched away or menaced by monsters. Gorey seems to say that the world of childhood is threatened by dark forces, a tale which mixes menace and whimsy.

Still, that may be reading too much into Gorey's gory stories. In fact, as revues tend to do, the show comes off as lightweight. One can't help wishing that it had focused on one full-length story, giving one a meal of substance, rather than a plate of hors d'oeuvres. What are we left with when the curtain rings down?

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