The Column Online



By Nancy Fricky

Rover Dramawerks

DIRECTOR- Sara Jones
PROGRAM- Carol M. Rice
SHOW LOGO- Matthew James Edwards

SANDY- Danielle Elliott
BEV- Amanda Dycus
STAN- Matthew Strauser
JOHN- Josh Radde
BRYCE- Anthony Magee
LOU- Stephan Roberts
FIONA- Nicole Denson
MARVIN- Scott Hickman
FIST- Daniel White

Reviewed Performance: 1/14/2023

Reviewed by Edna Elizabeth Ellsberry, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN

Rover Dramawerk’s mission is to present theater “off the beaten path.” Their production of FOUR WEDDINGS AND AN ELVIS, by Nancy Frick, involves ten characters, takes place in a wedding chapel in Las Vegas, is a four-scene, two-act play, and it is not an oft-performed production. The chapel, run by Sandy, (Danielle Elliott) is the host to three couples in search of a wedding. We meet Ben, (Matthew Strauser) and his intended, Bev (Amanda Dycus) who appear to re-starting their lives with a marriage. It comes to light that the couple is propelled into marriage by revenge on their previous partners. Stan is full of annoyance as he feels that Sandy is being sarcastic with them while presenting the various packages they may choose, but Bev is eager to make the wedding special. There is a delay in waiting for the unreliable minister, Ken to officiate the ceremony.

As they are waiting, and Stan is in the back changing into a tux, Bev reveals to Sandy that “once they are married,” all will be well. Sandy, who has seen it all, advises her that those words are a harbinger of disaster and that whatever is wrong at the moment will not be solved after the wedding. Enter Elvis, or rather, John, (Josh Radde), in full garb, from the chapel next door, to tell Sandy that Ken, the aforementioned minister, “looks sick,’ and has been installed in Sandy’s car. John is persuaded to perform the ceremony, as Elvis, while Sandy has offered Stan the option of a live broadcast of the ceremony for his former wife to view, which he readily accepts. Lines uttered by the characters echo lines from Elvis’s songs to the end of this scene, followed by credible vocals from John as Elvis. It turns out that marriage built on revenge does not bode for a happy union, but an Elvis song crooned by John at the end of the act, and sung to Bev, is sweet. The second scene begins with Sandy revealing to John that she had a phone interview for a new minister to replace unreliable Ken, who, it turns out, has a closer relationship with Sandy than as merely an employee. Lou can perform both conventional and Elvis weddings and looks to be a godsend for the chapel, especially as she has a celebrity wedding that very day. When Lou (Stephan Roberts) walks into the chapel, he is not exactly the savior she hoped for. He is considerably older, portly, and soft-spoken, but also rather an abrupt man, who has been out of the minister game, not to mention Las Vegas society, for easily several decades. When asked about officiating celebrity weddings, he mentions Zsa Zsa Gabor as a reference. This leads to the question we are asking: who will be the celebrities to enter into holy matrimony? A Dot-com millionaire and a young trophy wife? A young influencer and a rock star? It is instead, Vanessa (Jane Talbert) and Bryce (Anthony Magee,) appear after berating paparazzi outside the door. Bryce is wearing what appears to be both a toupee and a wig, and Vanessa, considers herself to be a great beauty. They have a bit they do, in which they say their names as if they are posing for glamourous headshots, with trademarked gestures accompanying their names. After telling Sandy to take their things, it is apparent that neither Sandy nor Lou, know who they are. Lou, proving himself to be less of a diplomat by the minute, is asked to disperse the photographers outside, and he reveals that there is no one there. He asks about their “pictures,” and they are insulted, as they appeared in “films.” He then asks what movies they have been in. They then relate that Vanessa played Mother Teresa in an “indie,” and Bryce was Ashley in a Czech production of Gone with the Wind. These ring no bells, but then they finally divulge that their greatest hit was in a Spy/Surf tv series shown decades earlier, and they are at the chapel to get married as a publicity stunt, concocted by Bryce’s manager, the same one who was in charge of ensuring the reporters would be at the chapel. At last Lou recognizes them. As things fall apart, champagne is brought out, which Vanessa eagerly imbibes, although Byrce intones that she “just got out of the tank.” Bryce is also the one who tells Vanessa that she should remove her dress to keep it from being mussed, and he takes off his trousers and jacket as well. Now we have the two actors onstage in their amusingly appropriate undergarments for their respective characters. As the realization dawns on both the actors that this wedding is a mistake, they begin to think of other ways they might recapture the limelight from the chapel next door, including coming out together; Bryce has never officially done so, but apparently, it is not a secret, but Vanessa wants no part of that, stating: “I will not be gay.” As a compromise is reached, clothes are donned, and they waltz out the chapel door. Lou is told that the job is probably not a good fit, which he accepts, but offers to call Sandy and take her to dinner, in the future. It is the end of Act I. The fact that we are at a wedding chapel, and have yet to witness a successful ceremony, allows for hope that this will occur in Act II. The set is comprised of two entrances, the front door, placed downstage right, and a doorway to the dressing area at the back, located upstage center. There is an office area with a desk and some chairs, located upstage right. The chapel, on stage left, is replete with a pink and white podium, a rose-covered trellis, and painted white benches, and has not been used for more than a few minutes so far.

Our hopes are realized as the lights come up, and a bow-tied, bespectacled man enters the chapel carrying a package left outside, and identifying himself as Marvin, played by Scott Hickman. He is quiet, but determined, appears to have extensive knowledge of the postal code, and is there to be married to Fiona, whom Sandy hypothesizes about: Shy, quiet Fiona, who is disapproved of by Marvin’s family. The next thing we hear is a lot of shouting and cursing as Fiona, (Nicole Denson,) enters the scene. The costuming here, as throughout the show, is spot on, as Fiona sports ripped leggings and a black motorcycle jacket. She is a burst of booming energy, contrasting hilariously with quiet Marvin. She relates that they met while she was a convict in an Arizona prison, and she has just gotten out that day. They met online, and then Marvin, who lives in rural Nebraska, would drive to visit her. Marvin mistakenly thought her screen name revealed a love of zip codes, but he was mistaken. However, they soon found they did have other interests in common. Sandy, who knows the rarity of finding a special someone, due to her own 4 marriages, (to the same person!) is charmed, as is the audience. Fiona is tough, brassy, and loud, but there is something genuinely sweet about this relationship, particularly after Fiona’s previous boyfriend, Fist, the reason that Fiona landed in prison, is imprisoned in Texas.

Marvin, then relates what he will do to Fist when he meets him, which is unfortunate, because Fist, (Daniel White), appears to form the back entrance, unbeknownst to the three, and proceeds to grip Marvin’s hand injuring him. First has heard about the wedding and has broken out of prison to stop it. He proceeds to plead with Fiona, that they grew up together, and that she needs to be with him. Fiona, who keeps her language in check, then tells him that Marvin, who has seen other things in her, plans to start a new life together, gardening, listening to his extensive knowledge of the postal code, and living in Nebraska.

The sound of sirens, and a voice telling Fist to surrender, interrupt the dialogue. Ken, the missing minister, is still not there to perform the ceremony, but by a stroke of luck, a solution is found, as Fist accepts that the two deserve to be together. A wedding in the chapel, at last! The chapel is finally used for its purpose, and Fist gives himself up.

John, as Elvis, sings a number during a set dressing change before the fourth and final scene of the play. Having met all the couples, plus Sandy, John, Lou, and Fist, we are told that it is now a year after the previous scene, and Sandy is going to be married, her four previous weddings to the same fellow notwithstanding. It is satisfying that the playwright, Nancy Frick, decides to gather all of the dramatis personae together, save one, for this final scene.

The performances are strong, led by cynical, yet kindhearted Sandy, played with both sharp timing and a slight wistfulness by Danielle Elliott. Bev, Amanda Dycus, has a sweetness to her, in contrast to her quick-tempered partner Stan, portrayed by Matthew Strauser. Jane Talbert and Anthony Magee relish playing deluded has-beens, being given straight talk by Lou( Stephan Roberts), who is ultimately kind. Josh Radde has to balance his persona as the King, while showing us a vulnerability as John. My favorite couple is Nicole Denson and Scott Hickman (Fiona and Marvin), who really seem to enjoy one another onstage. Finally, there is Fist, portrayed by Daniel White, who is more than a one-note character.

There is a venerable tradition of comedy that it ends with a wedding, so it is delightful and appropriate for this show to end with a marriage. By the last scene, there are new couplings, and one perhaps poised to enter matrimony as well. Sandy is beautifully turned out in a pale pink fitted dress, wearing a fascinator, and Bev, left alone after the first scene, we learn has stayed in Las Vegas, and is dating John. Fiona and Marvin, the couple who were truly in love, attend the ceremony, at Sandy’s invitation, along with an unexpected guest. Even Vanessa and Bryce return, uninvited, their fortunes considerably brighter than the last time we saw them, as evidenced by Vanessa’s mink jacket, and a videographer in tow.

There is great affection felt for these characters, felt by both Sandy and the audience, and it is fitting that all of the loose ends are tied up together neatly. Avoid spoilers, there are a number of surprises in this final scene. All’s well that ends well, comes to mind, as the characters dance together and exit the stage while being crooned to by John as Elvis.

Go to see this charming comedy, with its quirky cast of characters. Performances are: Thursday January 19, Friday January 20, Saturday January 21, Thursday January 26, Friday January 27, and Saturday January 28.

Rover Dramawerks, Cox Playhouse
1517 H Avenue, Plano TX 75074