Jobsite Theatre's production of "Gorey Stories" is a deliciously macabre homage to Edward Gorey, the master of twisted tales.
The company first staged the show in 2007 and now, five years later, the tweaked version is again washed in a black-and-white palette, has a smaller cast, further emphasizes the author's visual aesthetic and includes a musical encore that Gorey fans, in particular, will appreciate.
The result is intimate and perverse, like a creepy uncle's hug.
Adapted by Stephen Currens with music by David Aldrich, the 1978 musical is based on 18 of Gorey's best-known works: "The Wuggly Ump," "The Gilded Bat," "The Unstrung Harp" and "The Gashlycrumb Tinies," to name a few.
The actors recite or sing the stories and breathe life into the living dead.
In the Dickensian "The Hapless Child," poor little Charlotte Sophia is tragically orphaned, banished to boarding school and forced into child labor. Her lot illustrates the worst of childhood nightmares.
"The Doubtful Guest" proves the adage that fish and guests go bad after three days.
Silhouettes and double entendres in "The Curious Sofa" show Gorey's salacious side, while "The Loathsome Couple" suggests the author should have been locked up long ago.
All this to say, Jobsite perfectly realizes Gorey's special brand of irony in 3D. Every critical visual element to make this happen is here – costumes, makeup, set design, a screen featuring Gorey's illustrations and title plates to guide the audience. Directed by David M. Jenkins, the production looks like an episode from "The Addams Family" or "The Munsters," two television shows that should never, ever be colorized.
Katrina Stevenson's fantastic costume designs blend blacks, whites and grays into diverse eras: Stevenson is dressed as a 19th century horsewoman with a jaunty chapeau, Amy Gray is a gin-soaked flapper, Michael C. McGreevy could be a Victorian undertaker, Jason Vaughan Evans appears as a ghoulish Edwardian master, Spencer Meyers resurrects an ill-fated 1950s crooner and, my personal favorite, Summer Bohnenkamp-Jenkins settles hilariously into a deranged Raggedy Ann doll.
Amanda Bearss' puppets (clever substitutes to round out the smaller cast) are so accurately rendered, they could have been crafted by Gorey himself. McGreevy mans "The Pious Child," and he has a real knack for manipulating those strings into expressions.
The show sounds just as good as it looks. Gray, for example, showcases her lovely operatic voice in "The Blue Aspic." But best of all is the live band.
Immediately following bows, Jeff Temple, Alan Thomas and Parker J. Wilkson perform a three-song encore from "The Gorey End," an album of Gorey's unpublished works set to music by the Tiger Lillies with the Kronos Quartet.
When: Through Nov. 18; 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, 4 p.m. Sunday
Where: Straz Center, Shimberg Playhouse, 1010 N. MacInnes Place, Tampa
Tickets: $28; (813) 229-7827 or visit www.strazcenter.org