Jeffrey Combs reanimates Edgar Allan Poe on stage

Aug. 20, 2009 | 5:50 p.m.

Jeffrey Combs has been getting rave reviews in his one-man show as Edgar Allan Poe in “Nevermore…” at the Steve Allen Theater, a show that has been extended through September. Here’s an excerpt from Karen Wada’s nice Los Angeles Times Calendar cover story on Combs and his new spotlight moment:

Jeffrey Combs as Edgar Allen Poe

Edgar Allan Poe is reciting his poem “The Raven.” Well, reciting may be too tame a word. Poe (a.k.a. Jeffrey Combs) is creeping, cowering and gesticulating his way through a rendition that begins with aplomb but soon descends into a frenzy fueled by the author’s broken heart, unsteady mind and fondness for whiskey.

As Poe utters the final line, the audience at the Steve Allen Theater in Hollywood erupts into applause. Who knew such a famously morbid man could be so entertaining?

Indeed, the humanity — and humor — in Combs’ portrayal is one reason “Nevermore . . . An Evening With Edgar Allan Poe” has enjoyed full houses and ecstatic reviews. Another is the deftness with which the play pokes holes in the popular image of the 19th century writer.

“Everyone seems to think they know Poe’s story, but they usually get something wrong,” says Combs during lunch at his home in suburban Ventura County.

“He’s really a complex guy. He could be sweet and stern, articulate and falling-down drunk. The complete human condition, albeit to extremes.”

Combs hopes his one-man show — which has been extended through Sept. 26 — will make people think differently about not only its subject but its star. Even though his roots are in theater, the 54-year-old actor is best known as a horror movie hero and TV space alien. He became a splatter icon after appearing in the 1985 cult classic “Re-Animator” as Herbert West, a medical student obsessed with bringing the dead — and their assorted body parts — to life. He also has created deliciously nasty or conniving characters for several “Star Trek” spinoffs.

“Horror and sci-fi have been good to me, and the fans are wonderful,” Combs says. “But I pride myself on being a versatile actor, which I hope comes through here…”

THERE’S MORE, READ THE REST

– Karen Wada

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