Edward the sickest

There was a young curate whose brain
Was deranged from the use of cocaine
He lured a small child
To a copse dark and wild
Where he beat it to death with his cane

Welcome to the perfidious pen of author-illustrator-playwright Edward Gorey, who for five decades has drawn those slender hardcover volumes that detail the lives and loves of pedophiles, adulterers, the undead, the homicidal, and various nameless, inhuman, but often not-quite-monstrous monstrosities. Harcourt Brace has scheduled an October release for Gorey's newest book, The Headless Bust, a series of musings on the millennium. Meanwhile, the reclusive Gorey sews dolls and stages musical cabaret puppet shows at his theater in Cape Cod, cheerfully refusing to confirm or deny the persistent rumor that he has been dead for years.

Dallas' Our Endeavors Theater Company has undertaken its own form of flattery with a full-scale production of Gorey Stories, Stephen Currens and David Aldrich's musical based on 18 different tales and poems by the nasty narrator. But director Scott Osborne, working with Dallas scenic designer George Miller for this production, says he and the artists have conscientiously steered clear from a mimicry that would be "rote."

"If we were just going to ape Edward Gorey's style, it would be demeaning to everyone, especially Gorey," Osborne says. "I met with George about visual style, and then the actors and I looked at the drawings -- how can you ignore them? -- and then set them aside. We knew we'd have to toss the Gorey fans a bone here and there, of course, but we wanted the acting style to spring from our own vision of the stories. Above all, I wanted to make it a spectacle -- very funny and very grim."

Our Endeavors is also hosting, along with the Deep Ellum Center for the Arts, an art show alongside the performance called Goreality, with more than 30 lithographs and original drawings flown in from New York and San Francisco. Noting that the actors will be accompanied live by a cellist, keyboardist, and pianist, Osborne claims that despite Edward Gorey's reputation for blithe cruelty and merry misanthropy, Gorey Stories is the closest thing to "family entertainment" that Our Endeavors may ever undertake.

Jimmy Fowler

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Jimmy Fowler