Heavy Lies the Crown

By Darcie J. Flansburg

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Posted July 29, 2010 in Arts & Culture

The Samuel French synopsis for All the King’s Women reads: “The story of Elvis Presley told through the eyes of 17 women. Some enthralled. Some appalled. All obsessed.”

But it isn’t what you may think.

The women in this play are secretaries, car saleswomen and housewives that ran into Elvis at some point in their lives.

The show is full of scenes and monologues that go on just a bit too long, and there aren’t any musical numbers aside from some twisting to instrumental versions of Elvis’ music.

I mention this up front because a show can only be as good as the script. And Redlands Theatre Festival’s first downfall was choosing this script.

The ensemble is made up of well-seasoned thespians and RTF veterans. Mia Mercado, Cindy Grayson, Mickey Miller, David Critchlow, Kathy Johnson, Susan Adams, Joanne Stowitts, Catherine DeBrule, and James Muro acted their hearts out. But unfortunately they were reciting monologues and scenes that would be far too long for any audition piece and were definitely too long for the fidgety Thursday night audience.

Even Kathy Johnson’s monologue, which was the highlight of the show and had people guffawing left and right, could have been cut a tad bit shorter. Johnson was hilarious as a housewife that had literally run into Elvis at a supermarket one night at 3 a.m. But it was Johnson’s energy and enthusiasm that made the monologue—not the writing itself.

But everyone had their moments on stage, only to lose the moment because the joke had gone too long. Quite simply, the show could have used some editing.

The show was also performed without an intermission, but it was just long enough to cause patrons to need to use the restroom 20 minutes from the end of the show.

Director Katherine Thomerson could have done the actors (and the audience) a favor by cutting a few lines here and there (unless the writer forbid it).

But the show itself is also disappointing because it is a really pedestrian experience of Elvis. No woman that could really tell us much about the man behind the music was portrayed. No Anne Margaret. No Natalie Wood. No Priscilla.

And because of this the audience did not learn much about Elvis other than tales of stardom and minor encounters. Even the graphics presented throughout the show were without insight.

And on top of this, Elvis’ music was only played as transitionary music except for one instance when the actors danced randomly before, during and after the curtain call.

In recent press, Thomerson referred to the production as “this artsy, edgy play about Elvis’ life.” But the show did not feel artsy or edgy.

The poor actors were dressed in drab black, whites and grays with similar colored scarves that really didn’t flatter anyone or show any sense of time or place.

Overall, I was disappointed with the direction of the show and the choice of the script.
The actors really made the show. Their enthusiasm was what kept people watching. But it was the writing and static direction that made the audience antsy.

Being that this was a premiere to the area, I believe that RTF took a risk and it was worth a try. I really look forward to seeing the rest of the RTF season because I know that, at the very least, the scripts are well-written.

But RTF always does great work, which is why I was surprised (and disappointed) with how lackluster this show was.

The Redlands Theatre Festival runs five shows in rep every season at the beautiful Prospect Park in Redlands. The other shows this season are The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Steel Magnolias, Pump Boys and the Dinettes and Scapino.

All the King’s Women at Redlands Theatre Festival amphitheatre at Prospect Park, corner of E. Highland Avenue and Cajon Street, (909) 792-0562; www.rtfseason.org. Shows Sat, July 31, Aug. 6, 12, 15. Redlands Theatre Festival thru Aug. 21.


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