Writer: Eileen Gibbons
Director: Petal Pilley
Reviewer: Paige Louter
Waiting for Elvis is a sweet and sad portrait of friendship between two very different women: Lisa Marie (Valerie Egan), who is reserved and sharp-tongued, and Elizabeth (Charlene Kelly), who speaks to everyone with bright hopefulness and cheerily shares marshmallows and gifts of novelty mugs.
The world of the play rotates around the fixed point of Lisa Marie, who stays year-round on a park bench, waiting for Elvis Presley, who is sure to turn up. It’s hard to be famous, she explains to Elizabeth, so he had to pretend to be dead for a while. Elizabeth visits the park often, sharing updates of her new job and a new friend named April, whose growing influence on Elizabeth introduces tension.
Egan and Kelly are the stand-out performers, but the supporting cast members all have some great comedic moments, especially Jennifer Cox as a fanatical jogger trying her best to resist the call of the cream bun.
Playwright Eileen Gibbons has adapted her play specifically for Blue Teapot Theatre Company, whose guiding mission is to create productions performed by actors with intellectual disabilities. Her writing is clear and funny, but the middle of the show drags, feeling episodic without much forward movement in the plot. Some judicious pruning might have helped here: The show runs for an hour and forty minutes, and it’s simply too long without an interval.
Though the set and lighting design clearly communicate the passing of the seasons in the play, the stage feels too cold and empty for the intimacy of the drama unfolding between the two women. And at times the single tree – presumably a nod to the tree in Waiting for Godot – looks almost nightmarish as its bare limbs are backlit with purple light. A smaller venue may have been a better aesthetic fit.
But while the production might not be perfect, Director Petal Pilley has delivered an excellently cast and well performed show. Ultimately, the slowly growing warmth and friendship between Lisa Marie and Elizabeth is compelling and honest, and it’s enough to make the show a success.
Runs until 3 May 2016 | Image: courtesy of Galway Theatre Festival