Director – Matt Stepan
Set and Lighting Design – Maxim Overton
Sound Design – Danica Bergeron
Costume Design – Samantha Grace
Props Design – Jack Earl Piland
Fight Choreographer – Joseph L. Taylor II
Stage Manager – Molly Bower
Sandy – Eileen Kennedy Alger
Bev – Emily Burgardt
Stan – Henry Okigbo
John – Gary Eoff
Lou – Don Kruizinga
Vanessa – Veronica Day
Bryce – Kenneth Fulenwider
Marvin – Garrett Hayes
Fiona – Danielle Shirar
Fist – Louis Tarmichael
Cameraman – Henry Okigbo
Ken – Darrell Martin
Reviewed Performance 1/8/2016
Reviewed by Chris Jackson, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
Philadelphia playwright Nancy Frick’s 2010 comedy, Four Weddings and an Elvis, is being given a fun production by Rover Dramawerks of Plano. The comedy is set in a Las Vegas wedding chapel run for 17 years by four-times-married Sandy played with a great sense of sardonic wit and warmth by Eileen Kennedy Alger. As the only character that appears in all four scenes, Ms. Alger manages to communicate with her voice and reactions, the frustration, wonder, disbelief and, yes, love Sandy has for her customers. She offers them all the nuptial options, including the Star Trek, and, of course, Elvis wedding possibilities with enthusiasm, somehow managing to let us in on the strangeness of it all at the same time. And strangeness there is plenty of!
The first scene, titled “The Payback,” gives us the revenge wedding of Bev and Stan who are determined to marry to spite their exes. Emily Burgardt is Bev and plays the desperation and frustration of the soon-to-be-bride with enthusiasm, selecting the Elvis wedding and the rental of a wedding dress for herself and a tux for the groom, Stan. Henry Okigbo plays Stan as eager to be married but still counting the monetary cost of this act of revenge and gradually revealing to us the possibility of his continued love for his ex. As the scene progresses, we meet John, the Elvis impersonator from next door, who just conveniently happens to be an ordained minister, as played by Gary Eoff. Mr. Eoff enters in an Elvis costume, wig, sideburns and sunglasses and gives us some quick Elvis snippets of song. Unfortunately, Mr. Eoff, who is fine and warmly natural as John, is not very convincing as Elvis, his impersonation not bad enough to be funny, nor good enough to be entertaining. The scene continues and all parties come to an unexpected ending. (No spoilers here!) In all the scene is well paced, the actors play well off of each other, and get the show off to a good start.
“The Comeback” is the title of the second scene, and it involves two over-the-hill ex-TV stars who are hoping to jump-start their comebacks by getting married, hoping that the ensuing publicity will do the trick. The problem is, of course, that no one cares anymore about these people and their attempts at glamour and diva-like behavior are funny but also somehow grimly sad. Don Kruizinga is Lou, the substitute minister who just also happens to be an over the hill Elvis impersonator. While his Lou is appealing, his quick Elvis bits weren’t quite up to snuff either. Veronica Day is Vanessa and Kenneth Fulenwider is Bryce. Both actors pose and preen in their attempts to give us the “star” persona, but the pace begins to lag and the scene never seems to build the energy it needs. It didn’t help that the theater had become very warm by that point. Fortunately, that got remedied at intermission.
After intermission, we have “The Real Thing” and indeed it is. Garrett Hayes as Marvin and Danielle Shirar as Fiona, ably joined by Louis Tarmichael as Fist, get the second act off to a roaring start. Both Mr. Hayes and Ms. Shirar are skilled comedy actors who know how to set up and deliver a joke both vocally and physically. Mr. Hayes’ postal worker is hysterically dweeby and from the pants pulled high around his waist to the funny sox, Mr. Hayes gets every nuance, creating a fully developed character you can’t help but love. Even just sitting and listening, he is fully present and in the scene. His monologue about being a postman facing a dog earned him a well-deserved round of applause. Ms. Shirar’s Fiona, tattooed and spouting obscenities is the fully formed ex-con character, tough, and nobody you’d want to mess with, but she still lets us see her unlikely affection for Marvin in every look at him and physical embrace. Hers too is a rounded and well-conceived characterization. The scene between Marvin and Fiona where they list the kinds of animals that can be sent through the mail is one of the funniest AND sexiest exchanges between two actors I have seen in ages thanks to the skills of Mr. Hayes and Ms. Shirar. Fist, as played by Mr. Tarmichael is scary and tough and funny all at the same time. He gradually lets us see the softer side of that Fist as the scene progresses. This is by far the most successful of the scenes thanks to the text-elevating performances of the actors.
The fourth scene is titled “The Epilogue” and we see Sandy ready to marry for the fifth time. All of the characters from the other three scenes return for her wedding and we get a nice opportunity to see them again. Both Veronica Day and Kenneth Fulenwider as the TV personalities are better in this scene, appearing more real and believable, as is Gary Eoff’s John, the Elvis impersonator, who is much more interesting here than he was in the first scene. Happily Mr. Hayes, Ms. Shirar and Mr. Tarmichael are also back, bringing their great energy from the previous scene. All ends happily and we finally even get a glimpse of the elusive husband Sandy has kept divorcing and re-marrying.
The play is amusing and is often lifted by the performances so that the evening is certainly enjoyable, if a little long. The playwright may want to consider trimming a couple of the scenes and certainly pacing and presentation are key. Under director Matt Stepan, with the exception of the second scene, which seemed a little slow, the play runs smoothly and efficiently and each actor has their moment to shine.
Maxim Overton is the set and lighting designer for the show and she has provided a believable wedding chapel environment for the story. Four “stained glass” windows upstage offer us a hula girl, a frog, an Elvis and a Star Trek patch that are clever and well done. Choosing white for the walls was perhaps not the best possibility, but the set works overall even though the placement of the pews means that often the actors have their backs to quite a large part of the audience. Costumes by Samantha Grace and props by Jack Earl Piland work well for the show and are generally unobtrusive and supportive. Fight choreographer Joseph L. Taylor II gives us a neat scuffle in scene two and sound designer Danica Bergeron gets to give some great Elvis tunes along with ambient sirens!
In all, Four Weddings and an Elvis, presented by Rover Dramawerks, is an entertaining and fun-filled evening of theater that also touches on some serious themes, if one chooses to listen for them. The physical space, with its three-quarter configuration, puts the audience close to the action and the ambience is warm and welcoming. You don’t always have to go to Vegas to have a good time, and hopefully what happens in THIS Vegas will not stay there, but be shared by many happy patrons.
FOUR WEDDINGS AND AN ELVIS
221 W. Parker Road, Suite 580, Plano, TX
Final Performance January 30th
Thursdays @ 8:00pm, $16.00, Fridays and Saturdays @ 8:00pm, $22.00, Saturday Matinee on Jan. 16th @ 2:00pm, $16.00. For more info and tickets go to www.roverdramawerks.com
Or call 972-849-0358