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Paramount Girl 

PARAMOUNT GIRL, Live Bait Theater. After giving Elvis his first on-screen kiss and being touted as "the next Grace Kelly," starlet Dolores Hart chucked it all to join a convent, despite the pleadings of her fiance and an aggressive movie mogul. In Sue Cargill's fictionalized account of this true story, Hart (Alexandra Blatt) works through her decision with a series of confidants, from costars to a sympathetic nun (most of them portrayed--with great dexterity--by Vanessa Greenway and Tom Hickey, who bears little resemblance to Elvis but gets points for not playing the King as a cartoon).

Cargill's clearheaded, witty writing unfortunately includes too much foreshadowing and analysis. Hart's disillusionment with Hollywood and longing for the abbey life happen so early in the story that they rob it of conflict and character development. This confines Blatt--a competent performer resembling a young Blythe Danner--to a narrow emotional range between wistfulness and ambivalence. We see nary a spark until the very end, when Mark Vallarta takes the stage in a Pacino-esque rendering of growling, cynical producer-director Hal Wallis (heretofore a disembodied voice barking orders during shoots). Unfortunately, this confrontation drags on painfully--the clearest example of director Beau O'Reilly's unwillingness to edit interminable dialogues about the emptiness of movie star life. Cargill's play may accurately represent Hart's path to the nunnery, but without compelling bumps and twists in the road, it's not great drama.

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