Gaetana Caldwell-Smith

Reviews

PALACE WRECKERS, written and directed by Gary Graves

This play- prolific playwright Gary Grave’s latest ouvre- is a twist on the Greek myth wherein Electra conspires with her brother Orestes to enact revenge against their mother Clytemnestra and step-father Aegisthus for killing their father, Agamemnon.  Graves set his play in the Nevada desert several miles from Las Vegas.  Carla (an always great, reliable Jan Zvaifler, co-founder of the company) lives alone in her huge relic of a home called The Palace which is surrounded by a junkyard piled high with wrecked and rusted-out automobiles.

Prodigal son Orestes (a terrific Khary L. Moye in his Central Works debut) returns home after a decades-long absence where he learns that his dad had died allegedly of a heart attack.  Carla had found him leaning against an old Caddy.   His sister Elektra (the strong and versatile Regina Morones), has come to visit her mom, coincidently when her brother shows up.  Neither is happy to see the other.  In fact, no one appears happy to see anyone.  Jan Zvaifler as Carla for most of the play strikes a one-note delivery with little shading so that her sudden reversal at play’s end though softened, fails to ring true.    Carla displays distinct animosity towards her children.  Questions arise concerning paternity and who’s truly related to whom.

Another surprise: Seems Mom has taken on handy-man Gus (John Patrick Moore) her deceased husband’s former  partner not only to continue the work of crushing the cars and selling them for scrap, but also to fix up the house with the aim of either selling it or setting it up as tourist spot. Versatile (Moore is a Central Works’ regular who adapts beautifully and believably to any character, whom I’d watch in anything).   The siblings believe there’s something else going on between Carla and this “handy-man.”  But Orestes has other plans for the house and the surrounding junkyard and tries to convince the others to go along with it.   Pushing the plot forward is a contract deadline to meet in order to reap enough funds to realize their dreams.  The pressure causes Gus serious injury in that he can no longer do physical work.  Will the contract terms be met?  Will Gus convince Orestes to do the work now that he’s incapacitated?  All along the siblings believe their father’s spirit haunts the house.  A spooky, gothic  element runs through the play.

Do we hear those subtle strange sounds and where are they coming from? (Gregory Scharpen).   And the question of how, exactly did their father die and where is his body?    In the second act, Elektra becomes an “other,” like a bruja, from the classy, Las Vegas dressed-for success business-woman she was in Act One with an upswept hairdo, pencil skirt, stiletto heels, to bare feet, hair down in a loose tangle, and wearing a long, flimsy gown.  And she speaks of ominous portents, backed up by a sudden lightning and thunderstorm (Graves and Scharpen).   This is a haunting play that will stay with you.  Playwright/director Graves calls it a “revenge comedy”.  I saw little comedy but tons of drama, especially when Orestes enters all muddy after the rainstorm.  I half expected him to say: “Alas . . ..”

Runs Thurs- Sat May 31 to June 9, 8PM; Sun June 3 ( Extremely limited availability)-Sun June 10, 5PM.

Go to: centralworks.org, for tickets and more information

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