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Elvis and Juliet

This modern take on Shakespeare's classic romance is a hunka hunka burning trash. logo
David Rasche and Fred Willard in Elvis and Juliet
(Photo © Kim T. Sharp)
If you hear some rumbling at the June Havoc Theatre, the home of Mary Willard's Elvis and Juliet, that would be both William Shakespeare and Elvis Presley spinning in their respective graves. In this one-joke sketch that's been embarrassingly stretched into a full two-act comedy, Romeo & Juliet is spoofed if not beyond recognition, then certainly beyond repair.

Here's the set-up: Elvis Aaron Lesley (Haskell King) has fallen in love with Juliet Jones (Lori Gardner), the daughter of an eminent Yale professor. Elvis and Juliet want to get married, but their families, in a clash of cultures, stand in the way of their happiness. This concept could have actually yielded some interesting results, but Willard and director Yvonne Conybeare have reached for the simplest and most obvious jokes -- which only become more lame and shrill as the play lumbers to its unconvincing climax.

The bulk of the mediocre first act takes place in Las Vegas when Juliet meets Elvis' family. Elvis' father, Arthur Lesley (Fred Willard) is a handsomely paid impersonator of The King. The Lesley family lives in an eight-bedroom house and they own plenty of luxury cars, from a Rolls Royce to a pink Cadillac. But the family is a cliché that makes the Clampett Family look like English royalty. Ignorant as well as pridefully sexist, Arthur is literally as narrow as the Las Vegas Strip. His wife Becky (Pamela Paul) is blissfully happy in their marriage, although their daughter, Lisa Marie (Christy McIntosh) is clearly not the family favorite. The future of the Lesley family is seen in Elvis, who Arthur intends to include in his act. The problem: Elvis wants to be an economist.

There are some funny lines tossed here and there, but most of the comedy comes from Uncle Joey (David Rasche), a Vegas tribute artist specializing in Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra. The deliciously over-the-top Rasche is the only reason to see this show, while Willard, who should be getting laughs out of his Elvis persona, seems oddly hemmed in by his role.

Act two is the flip side of the first act, but it is hardly flip in its tone. Here, we meet Juliet's smug, supercilious Connecticut family. They speak Latin to each other. Even their 10-year old daughter speaks French fluently. So when the Lesleys come to visit, Juliet's family can't help but look down their noses at these show business cretins. The insults thrown back and forth are intended to get laughs, but by this time the constant use of Elvis Presley song titles and literary catch-phrases can no longer cover up the lack of good writing. So here's one of our own: Elvis and Juliet is a hunka hunka burnin' trash.

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