'Elvis' Breezy but Not Very Biting

The title is certainly a grabber: "When Elvis Met Che." The rock 'n' roll revolution meets the Cuban revolution.

Sol Biderman's play, at the Whitefire Theatre, is milder than all that. His point doesn't progress very far beyond his title. Still, it's a breezy and relatively brief piece.

The play isn't about the two famous icons as much as it's about the Mexican-American family they encounter in Denver in 1957. Ignacio (Hector Elias) is an officer of the Colorado Communist Party--and the Potato Pickers of America union. But his teen-age daughter Angelita (Karen Biderman) is more interested in a certain guitar picker.

Elvis (Chris Innvar), in town on a tour, stays at the hotel where Angelita's big quincianera bash is planned. Through some insufficiently explained machinations, the King shows up at the family home, then at the 15th-birthday celebration itself. Meanwhile, Ignacio arranges a secret rendezvous with his own hero, Che (Hector Herrera), at the same festivities.

Wavering in her loyalties is the wife/mother of the household (Irene de Bari), whose own family hero is Pancho Villa. Of the other family members, two (Elisa Pensler and Tony Colitti) are Elvis devotees, but one (Jerry Martinez) specializes in snide remarks.

The production tends to be outlandish without being outrageous, but director James Burke maintains a crisp satirical style, aided by slightly surreal sets designed by Edward E. Haynes Jr. Presumably the target of the satire is the idea of the Great American Assimilation, as well as that of the Great American Hero. But the ideas don't come into focus as sharply as they should, and the piece comes off as curious rather than deeply comic.

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