nytheatre.com review by John Samuel Jordan
August 15, 2004
Suspicious minds need not worry: Graceland done and got me all shook up.
Robert S. Woods (Bo Buchanan on One Life To Live), Loyita Chapel Woods, and Chapwood Enterprises, Inc. present the FringeNYC 2004 audience with a poignant slice-of-American pie filled with humor and first-rate, top-of-the-chart performances.
Now, you don’t have to be an Elvis aficionado to appreciate this story… it’s not about Elvis. It’s about people—real people—getting through life and learning to let go.
Janelle is a hard-working and supportive wife, guilt-ridden over her unfulfilled relationship with her comatose mother. To make amends, she decides to take Mom to the one place she always wanted to go: Graceland, Memphis, Tennessee, the home of the King of Rock n’ Roll. We never actually see Mom, but through the clever writing of Donald Steele, we hear Janelle’s interpretation of their “conversations.” Next up is Lana Turner, a part-time Elvis impersonator and part-time psychic, who is just trying to get from point A to point B every day to make a good life for her teenage daughter, Donny and Marie (yep, that’s her full first name). When these characters’ paths cross, we all learn a little bit more about ourselves.
Nicole Taylor, as Janelle, is superb. Taylor graces Graceland with her versatility, timing, and commitment. Kudos to her. Ellen Dolan (Margo Hughes on As the World Turns) plays Lana Turner as one hard headed woman. Her “Elvis” is good (I would have liked to see a little more pelvic thrusts) but she really shines in her scenes with Johnin E. Reade as her daughter. Reade rounds out this trio of very talented women with an equally vibrant take on her role. Mark Hofmaier strategically downplays Janelle’s down-on-his-luck husband, Tom.
The direction by David M. Pincus is right on. The transitions/overlaps between scenes are perfectly orchestrated and move the piece along quite well. The set by John Kenny, lighting by Bob Bessoir, and costumes by Kat Martin are practical and complete this overall gem of a play.