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Elvis to Their Rescue

Middle-Aged White Guys
Dave Lepori

Gun Crazy: Mona (Cambron Williamson) makes sure that the middle-aged white guys--Randall King (standing), Kevin Blackton and James Reese--get her point.

The King offers redemption to some middle-aged white guys

By Anne Gelhaus

SAN JOSÉ STAGE Company's new offering, Middle-Aged White Guys, presents a good argument for white-male bashing, but this time, playwright Jane Martin, whose last script was the adamantly pro-choice Keely and Du, isn't on the dramatic offensive.

White Guys is a surrealistic comedy in which the ghost of Elvis (Michael Ray Wisely), "King of all white men," visits three brothers who are holding a reunion at a toxic-waste dump and sets them on the path to redemption. This is only one in a handful of over-the-top plot devices, and the San Jose Stage Company does its level best to flesh out all of them.

The production succeeds in large part because of the three Stage Company regulars cast as the Mannering brothers. Kevin Blackton, James Reese and artistic director Randall King have a palpable chemistry and know how to play off each other to great comic effect. As broad as their characters are, all three performers manage to make multidimensional men out of potentially one-dimensional stereotypes.

Just what each brother is supposed to represent is made clear by his costume and/or the prop he carries. Blackton's Roy, the extremist right-wing mayor of the unnamed town where the play is set, spends the entire reunion in an Abe Lincoln costume he's donned for a Fourth of July fireworks show. When he first enters the dump, Roy slips in dog shit and smears his costume with the stuff, giving a pretty good indication of what playwright Martin thinks Republicans like him are doing to Honest Abe's party.

The significance of the box of Cheez-its that Reese's Clem keeps clenched in his fist isn't as obvious, but the snack food is the source of so many laughs that it becomes a minor character by play's end. And the semiautomatic weapon King's Moon waves around is both a tool of his mercenary trade and a symbol of personal power for both him and Roy's second wife, Mona (Cambron Williamson), who fires off a few victory rounds before walking out on her husband.

Mona's appearance at the dump is brief, but Williamson makes it memorable, turning her character into a sort of Prozac-queen version of Nora in A Doll's House. But the femme fatale of the show is the ghost of R.V. (Lisa Recker), Roy's first wife and Moon's ex-lover, whom the brothers have assembled to honor on the 20th anniversary of her suicide. R.V. is both a messenger of God and an avenging angel; she's the one who suggests that the Almighty use the Mannering boys as tools of a rather embarrassing white-guys' redemption.

The Stage Company has a lot of tongue-in-cheek fun with the redemption process Martin's script calls for, and it's likely that the middle-aged white guys in the audience will be laughing too hard to work up a lather about being held responsible for all society's ills.

Middle-Aged White Guys plays Wednesday­Saturday at 8pm and Sunday at 2pm through May 4 at The Stage, 490 S. First St., San Jose. Tickets are $15­$25. (408/283-7142)

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From the April 17-23, 1997 issue of Metro

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