This is a wonderfully written play by Dublin, born Fionnuala Kenny, who tells the tale of young girls 'plight in 1961 when young women in a dress making shop in Dublin, Ireland felt the pressures of peers and the Catholic ‘hand of God’ damning everyone for their sins. Including the sin of being pregnant and the father happens to be a man of the cloth. It’s called “Elvis’s Toenail.”
Don’t let the title sway you away, although Elvis is a big motivator for some of the characters in the play, it's directed by Joe Banno with Sal Romeo and this play is a wonderful, tight and passionate theatrical experience with some very talented actors. Starting with Arielle Davidsohn who is playing Carmel, who has such vitality and excitement as a young girl enthralled with dancing, boys and Elvis Presley, and is full of humor and wit in her choices as an actress, she is just pure fun to watch. Arielle is amazingly fun to watch and her comic talents just leap off the stage.
Lenne Klingaman plays Rita and does an amazing job of simple and yet dramatic passion of her situation and the reason she hides her secret. Lenne has an amazing way she uses her pauses and eyes so subtly that her performance is fresh and real, with much passion.
Now the part of Father Ambrose is wonderfully performed by Gary Bell. Garry does a spot-on performance as an overbearing, unrealistic and completely blinded Catholic priest who wants nothing more than to burn people at the stake – figuratively. After the play was over I just wanted to smack Gary around a few times – that’s how good he was in his role! Grrrrrr.
Laurie Wendorf plays Mrs. Kelly who is the owner of the dressmaking shop and performs her character with conviction and honesty. Laurie is so likable and sympathetic she’s the heroine of the group and makes you feel good about what she ends up doing for the girls.
Christine is sharply played by McKerrin Kelly who is simply imaginative to watch. Playing the assistant to Mrs. Kelly, McKerrin is intelligent and interested in all that is her world but sprinkles it with a touch of humor and charm and a ‘wee’ bit of sarcasm.
Another fresh surprise was the young, fun-loving Irish boy named Christy, played by Saxon Jones. Saxon has the amazing ability to clearly rattle off words, dialogue, song and prose so precisely that you can hear every syllable and word sharply even though he is speaking 100 miles a second! Saxon adds lots of humor and charm and really motivates the girls into being themselves for who they are.
Playing best friends to Camel is Imelda who is a spit-fire in her own right as it is her obsession with Elvis that excites everyone else, although slightly confusing people somewhat too. Christine Quigless does a wonderful job as Imelda spreading excitement with charm and lots of fun humor. I loved watching Arielle and Christine working their scenes together. They were so much fun.
Marnie Crossen plays a very convincing (almost scary) Mother Francis, a Catholic nun. Marnie gives it that ‘regal-ness’ and immense authenticity but has a wonderful and charming sense of comic timing about her. She’ll make you smile several times with her characterization of what is the traditional Catholic nun.
An excited purchaser of clothing and clothes line, for sales, that helps keep the dress making shop alive is the character of Miss McEvoy who is wonderfully sharp and performed by Francesca Ferrara. Francesca gives a witty and professional flavor with that no-nonsense business attitude of wanting to sell and make lots of money. Katie Savoy plays Rose in a more softer and serious tone because she has let her past catch up with her. But Katie is a nice contrast, adding to the show a somewhat regretful past, something we all have hidden in our own histories.
The play has a lot of warm and really funny moments and one scene that it was like watching a really great tennis match as it was a verbal battle that left the audience enthralled. Except for wanting to smack the priest (because Gary was doing an amazing job with his character), this play is charming, smart, fun, energetic and has the drama and passion of a story that feels real and intense. “Elvis’s Toenail” is an extremely wonderful production with adult language and adult situations. Check them out at Sidewalk_Studio_Theatre.