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Little Theatre of Alexandria All The King’s Women

By • Jun 25th, 2012 • Category: Reviews
All The King’s Women
Little Theatre of Alexandria
Little Theatre of Alexandria, Alexandria, VA
Through June 30th
80 minutes without intermission
$17-$20
Reviewed June 22nd, 2012

Fascination is not necessarily fascinating. The 17 characters in the misleadingly titled All the King’s Women are fascinated by Elvis Presley. Their fascination, however, is at best amusing and at worst tedious — unless, of course, one shares that Elvis obsession.

Which I do not. Similarly, I am not devoted to the sport of curling, or the music of Elton John, or the specifications of Shelby Cobra automobiles. But there are people who can enthuse for hours about curling or Elton John or Shelby Cobras … or any of a thousand other cult-worthy phenomena. You name it, you’ve experienced it: there you are, listening to members of a cult as they go on and on, endlessly swapping facts and opinions. The best one can muster is polite tolerance.

Some production details rescue the production of All the King’s Women at the Little Theatre of Alexandria from the ignominy of polite tolerance. The actors — one man and three women — play 17 contrasting roles in eight sketchy scenes. The parts range from the woman who sold the $12.95 guitar that was Elvis’ birthday present when he was 11 to a woman who sells Elvis souvenirs in the Graceland gift shop 35 years after The King has died. Sometimes the performances are engaging, as when a woman reminisces about meeting Elvis at 3 a.m. in a Memphis supermarket.

And sometimes the performances (and the writing by playwright Luigi Jannuzzi and the direction by Ellen Dempsey) are not so engaging. A scene featuring a promotional brainstorming session is inane. The three characters are supposedly trying to figure out how to get Elvis to back sales of a silk screen portrait of The King done by Andy Warhol. The satire is stale. The actors’ attempt to ridicule 1960s avant-garde cynicism and sophistication is maladroit. 

A scene featuring three White House office workers gone gaga when the mega celebrity Elvis drops in on Richard Nixon in 1970 is kind of cute at first. The women quickly go from blasé to skeptical to gaga. Then they do more gaga … and more … and more. It gets monotonous. 

Actors Ric Andersen, Jennifer Finch, Sarah Holt and Robin Parker differentiate scene locales with regional accents. They take us from Tupelo, Miss. to New York City and then down to Memphis. The cast brings off these accents fairly well. A sense of setting-in-time is clarified by period costumes (Bobbie Herbst and Nicole Zuchetto) and wigs (Robin Parker and Hannah Wolf.)

It’s not that Elvis, as a character, is uninteresting. It’s just that The King is essentially absent from All the King’s Women. He had a life. The celebrity-obssessed characters in All the King’s Women need to get a life.

A peripheral note: Elvis is a character in the excellent jukebox musical Million Dollar Quartet. The other three quartet members are Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins. These four really did coincide at the Sun Records recording studio in Memphis in December, 1956. The show is a compilation of beloved hits drawn from a seminal time when country and western, gospel, rhythm and blues and rock and roll were cross-fertilizing — with fantastic results. If the actors who impersonate the quartet members are inspired, the effect is wonderful. I saw the show’s sensational première five years ago at a gutsy regional theater in Issaquah, WA. From there it went to Broadway. A touring production of Million Dollar Quartet plays the Kennedy Center in December.

Photo Gallery

Jennifer Finch, Robin Parker, and Sarah Holt Jennifer Finch, Ric Andersen, and Robin Parker
Jennifer Finch, Robin Parker, and Sarah Holt
Jennifer Finch, Ric Andersen, and Robin Parker
Jennifer Finch and Robin Parker Ric Andersen and Jennifer Finch
Jennifer Finch and Robin Parker
Ric Andersen and Jennifer Finch
Sarah Holt, Ric Andersen, and Robin Parker Sarah Holt, Ric Andersen, and Robin Parker
Sarah Holt, Ric Andersen, and Robin Parker
Sarah Holt, Ric Andersen, and Robin Parker

Photos by Doug Olmsted

Disclaimer: Little Theatre of Alexandria provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review.

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lives in Arlington with his wife, daughter, son-in-law and two grandchildren. Before retiring last year at age 70, he was theater critic at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer for 27 years. Prior to that, he reviewed plays for the Philadelphia Bulletin, the Texas Observer and the Swarthmore College Phoenix. Non-reviewing journalistic jobs include writing for the Houston Chronicle, the San Juan (Puerto Rico) Star and El Mundo de San Juan. Think about it: most of the papers he worked for no longer exist. Maybe this internet gig has better longevity prospects.

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