Reviewed by Matt Ritchey

“Christmastime, 1970: The King just spent 100 G’s on gifts, and he’s on the run from Graceland. High on Demerol, high on liquid Ritalin, and with the help of his dead twin brother Jesse, Elvis concocts a scheme to offer the leader of the free world his influential voice in exchange for a new symbol of power.”

As strange as it may seem, this bizarre logline perfectly encapsulates the insanity of King Dick, part of The Big Event – three plays from Christian Levatino’s Black Bag Pentalogy now playing at the Complex Theatres. A multi-nominated piece at the 2015 Hollywood Fringe Festival, King Dick has been reshaped and partially rewritten by Levatino and the new work is fantastic.

Andy Hirsh, Jeff Doba, L.Q. Victor, Derek Manson, Spencer Cantrell and Keith Stevenson
Photo by Darrett Sanders

Of the three dark comedies (Sunny Afternoon, King Dick and …Meantime at HoJo’s), King Dick may be the outright funniest, with Levatino portraying a drug-hyped Elvis Presley throwing karate jabs and mystic wisdom at anything that moves, on his way to convince President Nixon to make him a Federal Agent. It’s just as crazy as it sounds and is a masterful work of storytelling, character, and staging (see review for  Sunny Afternoon for more on the design).

Here, as with Sunny, the entire cast shines. A core group of actors work in two or three of the plays and one cannot help but marvel at their stamina and brainpower, especially when performing all three plays in a single day. Darrett Sanders, who owned the stage as Homicide Captain Will Fritz in Sunny Afternoon, shows his palpable comedic chops as Elvis’s dead brother/conscience. Derek Manson and Keith Stevenson play great straight men to Levatino’s (literally) high comedy, and Jeff Doba embodies the spirit and twisted soul of Richard Nixon, scheming with his slick and slithery aide, played by Patrick Flanagan. And where Levatino is subtle and allows others to shine in Sunny Afternoon, in King Dick he explodes onto the stage in a riveting and hysterical performance as the King of Rock n’ Roll.

Sandwiched between two plays of deep historical and political resonance, King Dick may not be the show you’d want to attend to prepare for your college history mid-term, but it’s the one you’ll most enjoy when you’re “relaxing” with a jazz cigarette in the stairwell after class.

Highly Recommended

Written and directed by Christian Levatino

October 27 – December 2, Saturdays at 7pm and Sundays at 5:30pm (*no shows Thanksgiving weekend)

Photo (above) by Darrett Sanders: L.Q. Victor and Derek Manson

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