Sunday, April 29, 2012

WOBT: "All the King's Women"

Director Laura Morrison is an unabashed & self-proclaimed Elvis fan, so it is not surprising that she has chosen Luigi Jannuzzi's tribute -- All the King's Women -- to stage at Prattville's Way Off Broadway Theatre.

Beware, all ye who enter here! Elvis fans or not, there is a litany of reliable facts about "the King" dutifully scattered within its nine monologues & vignettes that are played by an ensemble of five actresses from the River Region. -- While the majority of the scenes are based on real events, four of them are invented scenarios, and all are punctuated with stereotypical characters and generic humor.

There is no central plot to follow in this collection, only loosely connected scenes that track from a monologue set in 1946 when Elvis got his first guitar, through the controversial television censorship issue, to Elvis' meetings with President Nixon and artist Andy Warhol -- all thoroughly documented, and linked by voice-over news reports of each time period and piped in pop songs of the day.

Long blackouts between scenes -- necessitated at times to accomodate costume changes -- make it important for actors' energy levels at both the starts and ends of each picee to be high and for lighting and sound cues to be sharp in order to sustain audience attention and get them to engage with the assortment of characters.

While the five actresses frequently succeed in fully embodying the various roles they assume at the starts of the scenes [there is no time to develop a character], these overlong blackouts force them to re-establish energy and audience connection at each successive scene.

And then, they are saddled with Jannuzzi's ponderous script that makes each scene's point early-on and then continues it for too long to arrive at an already predictable end.

That being said, there are a few highlights in this production, staged on an all black neutral set. Michon R. Givens brightens up "3 a.m. In the Garden with God", an invented monologue about a chance meeting with Elvis in a supermarket.

Zyna Captain, Hollie Pursifull, and Tammy Hyman as White House secretaries awaiting their idol in "When Nixon Met Elvis" are all fanatical, but each is a distinct personality befitting their secreataial rank in the political hierarchy.

Misty Corrales gives a spunky depiction of a woman whose boyfriend lied to her in "The Backup Singer".

But the most touching piece [and the most truthfully performed] is Ms. Captain's fact-based monologue "One Private Guard", who she sensitively portrays as a humble and dedicated Graceland employee whose insights provide the most engaging moment of this play.