.‘Elvis…’ Sighted in Cloverdale

Live theater returns to the Cloverdale Performing Arts Center (CPAC) with Elvis Has Left the Building.

It’s a farcical look at what was going on in the Colonel’s office that December of 1970 when Presley went to Washington. Written by mother and son team V. Cate and Duke Ernsberger and directed by Jonathan Graham, the show runs through July 30.

The Colonel (Tom Gibson) has lost a roulette game to an infamous gangster in Las Vegas. He now has 24 hours to produce Elvis for a command performance, but nobody knows where Elvis is. Hijinks ensue involving hypnosis, a stern German secretary (Angela Squire), an inept employee (Adam Paulsen), a skeptical protegee (Devin McConnell) and a nosy femme fatale reporter (Dawn Gibson).

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The playwrights seemed to have relied on people’s love of Elvis instead of putting any depth into the script, resulting in predictable one-note jokes. To be fair, the opening night audience’s laughter showed that where Elvis is concerned, depth is rarely needed.

CPAC has always been an impressive little technical theater, and this production is no different. It helps that every member of the production team is doing double duty. Scenic design, light design and stage management were all efficiently handled by board president Amy Lovato. Sound design was by director Jonathan Graham, and there’s impressive costume design work by artistic director Robert Zelenka.

It should be no surprise, given the production team, that every member of the cast is a familiar face on the CPAC stage. Squire and both Gibsons have been appearing in CPAC shows since the beginning. McConnell has been in multiple shows, and Paulsen is the board’s secretary. Familiarity isn’t always a bad thing. But when there’s too much familiarity, things can lose their edge.

That isn’t to say that there aren’t good performances here. Gibson is perfectly cast as the scheming, irascible and yet loveable Colonel Tom. Squire’s Trudy is self-aware and unsubtly ridiculous in the funniest possible way. Though McConnell’s Candy is stiff, his performance after a “metamorphosis” is surprisingly fluid and funny. Other things that should be honed (like the inconsistent and unintelligible dialects used by all but Tom Gibson and Squire) are left to sort themselves out.

Despite its unevenness, if one just wants to have fun and celebrate a love for Elvis, this show will fill that niche. If one is looking for a razor-sharp farce, well then, they’re headed for Heartbreak Hotel.

‘Elvis Has Left the Building’ runs through July 30 at the Cloverdale Performing Arts Center, 209 N. Cloverdale Blvd. Saturday, 7:30pm; Sunday, 2pm. $10 -$15. Special Club 99 performance Sunday, July 30, $50. 707.894.2219. cloverdaleperformingarts.com.

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