LAST DAYS OF GRACELAND By Franca Miraglia, directed by Patricia Vanstone (Theatre Passe Muraille, 16 Ryerson). To April 6. Pwyc-$35. 416-504-7529. Rating: N
Now that Andy McKim’s Helming Theatre Passe Muraille, let’s hope there are no more wrecks like Franca Miraglia’s Last Days Of Graceland to drag it down. It’s the worst show I’ve seen there since… well, I’ll be polite and let certain theatrical corpses rest in peace.
It’s hard to be polite, however, about Miraglia’s play, which, coincidentally, has to do with burying the dead. Two strangers meet outside Memphis’s Graceland Mansion, which has been bought by a “Chinese bizzillionaire” who’s allowing 10 lucky people chosen by lottery to spend a weekend at the King’s former home before it’s demolished.
One hopeful ticket-holder is Sandra (Catherine Bruhier), a celebrity eulogist. (Whether she’s famous for her eulogies or she only presents eulogies for the famous is unclear.) Another is Robert (Jim Jones), a high school science/drama teacher whose flamboyant lover, Jackson (Walter Borden), is at home dying.
Interspersed with Sandra and Robert’s banal and contrived conversations are multiple flashbacks that are supposed to explain, Dr. Phil-style, their current emotional crises. These scenes are not only sentimental (and waste veteran actors like Borden, Earl Pastko and Tedde Moore), but are so awkwardly staged by director Patricia Vanstone that they provoke fits of nervous laughter.
Andjelija Djuric’s ugly set and John Roby’s predictable sound design don’t help the production much.
I should add, though, that Jones works hard to make Robert into a man full of conflicted emotions. You can read discomfort on his face and in his nervous posture. And it’s not just because the actor’s stuck in a stinker.