All Shook Up
Book by Joe DiPietro
Directed and Choreographed by Richard Amelius
Featuring Logan Scott Mitchell, Nicholas Spark, Danielle Bowen, Preston Ellis
Ivorton Playhouse, Ivoryton, Connecticut
July 2, 2014 – July 27, 2014
[This is the third of five off campus reviews generated while I was a 2014 O’Neill National Critics Institute Fellow.]
Sexual identities, interracial relationships, and the music of Elvis Presley shake together uneasily in the jukebox jumble of All Shook Up at the Ivoryton Playhouse. Joe DiPietro’s 2005 book provides a sometimes witty framing (a little bit Shakespeare, a little bit Wild One, a little bit Rock and Roll High School) for mostly familiar tunes. But occasional moments of performance spark deliver neither the charm of kitsch nor the energy of the blue-suede shoe wearing roustabouts who proliferate in this plot, all necessary to bring this show successfully to life.
Director and choreographer Richard Amelius has an eye for simple dramatic movement, perhaps best illustrated by the happy non sequitur pirouettes by blonde military school dropout Dean (Logan Scott Mitchell). What the director doesn’t have a steady hand on is the overall tone this production needs – fun and frivolous with a bit of social commentary on the side.
Nicholas Spark’s Dennis finds some fun moments – the boy who loves the girl Natalie (Danielle Bowen) who loves the stranger Chad (Preston Ellis) who loves Natalie in drag. But the main love connection in this ménage between Natalie and Chad fizzles without the requisite romantic chemistry.
“Inside you’re just a big mess of goo like the rest of us,” says one character toward the end of the play. Unfortunately, this sentiment is uttered on a clumsily executed set with actors who frequently look terribly stilted on stage. The mess in this case is quite external.
© Martha Wade Steketee (July 2, 2014)