Monday, June 1, 2009

New Review Posted: Graceland

I have a new review up on Centerstage: Graceland, a premiere by Ellen Fairey at Profiles. I was decidedly mixed--I thought it was well-done, but pretty formulaic. Other reviews were total raves, though, which surprises me--but I guess I'm bucking the consensus on this one. Ah well.

A small detail I didn't mention in my review--I'm not sure what they used, but the fake pot smoked onstage smelled remarkably realistic.

You know, based on what other people did in college.

A review with ticket info and pictures can be found here, and the text is below. Enjoy!

A pair of troubled siblings with a turbulent past and present, their just-dead father, an aging ladies man and his teenaged son.

A tone that balances quirky humor and emotional outbursts, a plot that includes wild coincidence and honest revelations.

Funny lines, excellent acting and a nifty use of a tiny space.

Ellen Fairey's "Graceland" at Profiles Theatre is a world premiere, but it follows the stylistic formula of many contemporary plays. It's a very funny and extremely well-acted variation on the tragicomic contemporary character study, but it gets few points for originality.

Sara (Brenda Barrie) and Sam (Eric Burgher), have just lost their alcoholic father, and buried him in the title cemetery. Both are stuck in dead-end jobs and unsatisfying love lives. Encounters with Miles (Jackson Challinor) and his father Joe (Darrell W. Cox) complicate the plot and the emotional situation even more.

Fairey has created interesting characters, though they don't always behave in believable or consistent ways. She has an exceptional ear for the way people talk, and her dialogue is often hilarious. It's just that the plot and emotional arc are often predictable—shortly after a scene begins, it's pretty clear how it will end.

Still, there are many pleasures along the way. Director Matthew Miller has a sure way with Fairey's writing, and has guided the cast to strong work. They make the characters believable and engaging even when they are behaving in ways that make little sense. Challinor is particularly wonderful—he brings the melodrama and bizarre charm of adolescence to life in an utterly winning way. The fact that he is actually near Miles's age, rather than a young-looking twenty-something, is a major help.

Fairey has real playwriting talent, and has crafted a satisfying show. Let's just hope that next time she takes herself, and the audience, a little further outside the comfort zone.

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