by Jim Ridley
Never underestimate the drawing power of Edgar Allan Poe or a dude who made his cult-movie bones opposite a lascivious severed head. The Nashville Public Library filled its auditorium to capacity last night (and moved more than 200 other spectators into a side video projection room) for actor Jeffrey Combs' one-man show Nevermore, in which the tormented Poe drinks himself insensible, rails belligerently at Longfellow and Washington Irving, dashes his last hope for romance and wallows in disconsolate grief while turning a late-career public reading into an apocalyptic meltdown.
It was a great start for the library's new "Night at the Library" program, and a great night for Popular Materials guru Bill Chamberlain, whose podcast interview with director Stuart Gordon helped bring about the event. Gordon, as you'll recall, directed Combs in the breakout cult movie Re-Animator (screening tonight and tomorrow midnight at The Belcourt), and he staged Nevermore from a script by their Re-Animator collaborator Dennis Paoli. If you have fond memories of Combs' whiplash line readings as deranged doctor Herbert West, his shrieking, wheedling, raging Poe was a virtuosic display of histrionic fireworks — he turned every line into a stick of dynamite with an uncertain length of fuse.
Apparently Combs got something extra out of the trip, according to the library's press release:
Combs did more than perform at the library. Earlier in the day, he took advantage of the Special Collections area and traced his genealogy to Warren County in Tennessee. The actor found roots in the middle of the state.
The next Night at the Library, "A Twisted Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste," will feature Rubes cartoonist Leigh Rubin 6:15 p.m. Jan. 31.