by Michael Buzzelli
Elvis has left the building, but that doesn’t stop two devoted fans, Rootie (Kodie Warnell) and Bev (Jennifer Phipps Kopach), as they guard the gates of Graceland, hoping to be the first to enter the estate as it opens its doors to the public in Ellen Byron’s “Graceland.”
One night in June 1982, these two fools rush in, hoping to be the first into Graceland. They fight for the top spot. Bev is a hard-headed woman and Rootie is all shook up over the events of her past. At first, neither trusts the other. They both have suspicious minds. We learn that Rootie is a little sister in mourning, but both have a burning love for the guitar man. They fight, because it’s now or never! Only one person can be the first walk through the doors. As they fight, you’ll want to shout, “Don’t be cruel!” When Rootie shares her memories, the two make up, dance to a medley of Elvis songs and go their separate ways.
In “Asleep in the Wind,” we flashback ten years earlier, Rootie (now played by Lola Arfield) spends a special afternoon with her big brother Beau (Noah Welter) before he goes off to war.
The show could be billed as “Graceland” and “Asleep in the Wind,” instead of “Graceland and Asleep in the Wind.” It’s a subtle, but important, distinction. The shows even have separate directors, Joe Eberle for the former, Mary Meyer for the latter.
Eberle directs “Graceland” with verve. It’s an energetic show. Carly Sims-Linkish’s set is sparse, but the actors don’t need a lot to create their world.
Kopach does a great job as the big-wigged Bev. She is over-the-top when she has to be and much more low-key during the softer moments. Bev goes from cliche to a fresh, fuller character.
Warnell is delightful as Rootie. She immerses herself in the role.
Meyer’s “Asleep in the Wind” is the same but different, as expertly directed as Eberle’s “Graceland.”
Armfield doesn’t imitate Warnell but delivers a similar-yet-different version of Rootie. She is equally terrific.
Welter is charismatic, wide-eyed and innocent (P.S. he would have been perfect for Pippin if he was around earlier in Little Lake’s season). The bond between the two ‘siblings’ feels real.
Separately these plays are cute, but together they form something much more meaningful, much more poignant, two big pieces of a puzzle, two pieces of Rootie’s heart. The two fractions coalesce into something beautiful because of the strength of the actors’ performances.
They are two little gems (diamonds falling from the sky).
It’s literally one for the money, and two for the show. Now, get ready, now, go, cat, go.
“Graceland and Asleep on the Wind” runs until November 20 at Little Lake Theatre, 500 Lakeside Drive South, Canonsburg, PA 15317. For more information, click here.