Velvet Elvis

The play, taking place in a strip joint, is emceed by Eelie (Illana Levine), a ditzy dancer with a heart of gold. She intros three co-workers, who each reenact a tale of woe about the men who "done them wrong," in the hopes they will conjure the spirit of Elvis from a mountain of dirt they have built downstage.

With:
Eelie/Bonnie ... Illana Levine Jerry/Dave/Dole/Bishop ... Jeff Yagher Karen ... Anneliza Scott Lucinda ... Lisa Lucas Denise ... Heidi Anderson Elvis ... Patrick Weathers Strippers appear to be in vogue as a theatrical theme. With the success of "Melody Jones" at the CAST last year, and the current offering by the Renegade of "Pink," it seems quite natural to see the unveiling of Matthew Carnahan's sometimes dark, sometimes ridiculous comedy "Velvet Elvis." Leave expectations at home, and the laughs will come, regardless of how bare the script reveals itself to be.

The play, taking place in a strip joint, is emceed by Eelie (Illana Levine), a ditzy dancer with a heart of gold. She intros three co-workers, who each reenact a tale of woe about the men who “done them wrong,” in the hopes they will conjure the spirit of Elvis from a mountain of dirt they have built downstage.

The stories express various degrees of suburban terror. Karen (Anneliza Scott) tells of futile attempts to regain the attentions of her postman husband Jerry (Jeff Yagher), who is obsessed with his “perfect record” in the postal service, to the exclusion of all else.

Denise (Heidi Anderson) and her psychotic boyfriend Dole (Yagher again) enact an intense dance with death in their relationship of abuse and intimidation.

The evening’s most touching vignette recounts Lucinda (Lisa Lucas) trying to balance the demands of her sexually deprived mechanic husband (Yagher) and her mentally retarded sister, Bonnie (Levine). The second act is Eelie’s turn to tell of the circumstances that led to the death of her violent, self-proclaimed televangelist spouse Bishop (Yagher).

The story is preceded by the arrival of Elvis (Patrick Weathers), who informs Eelie that if he can successfully help her, he may leave purgatory.

The entire presentation possesses an occasionally subtle, but usually not tongue-in-cheek quality. Expressive interpretive dances weave the action of the stories together (Levine “stripping for Jesus” on TV is hilarious).

The actors perform adequately, with Yagher stealing the show. Levine does a moving turn as Bonnie, and Weathers’ seedy Elvis rings true, with enough of the original to be accessible.

Carnahan’s script is simple entertainment with no social value or insight, in spite of the issues it pokes fun at: exploitation, marital abuse, and self-esteem. Director Shannon McMahon and choreographer Cady Huffman move the show along in jerks, twists and grinds that sport little seductive fluidity.

Velvet Elvis

(Theatre/Theater, Hollywood; 68 seats; $ 10 top)

Production: Lively Arts Theatre Group in association with Ate Thirty Prods. and Mr. Otto's Barking Theater presents a play in two acts by Matthew Carnahan; director , Shannon McMahon.

Creative: Choreography, Cady Huffman; set, Jeff Yagher; lights, Todd Bearden; costumes, Neda DeMayo. Opened July 28, 1993; reviewed Aug. 12; runs through Sept. 3.

Cast: Eelie/Bonnie ... Illana Levine Jerry/Dave/Dole/Bishop ... Jeff Yagher Karen ... Anneliza Scott Lucinda ... Lisa Lucas Denise ... Heidi Anderson Elvis ... Patrick Weathers Strippers appear to be in vogue as a theatrical theme. With the success of "Melody Jones" at the CAST last year, and the current offering by the Renegade of "Pink," it seems quite natural to see the unveiling of Matthew Carnahan's sometimes dark, sometimes ridiculous comedy "Velvet Elvis." Leave expectations at home, and the laughs will come, regardless of how bare the script reveals itself to be.

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