Review by Danny Gaisin
The Mississauga Players’ in-house-authored bit of fluff plays strictly for laughs; and in that context – succeeds. As theatre, both the playwright and director need a smidgen of dramaturgical tweaking. Frank De Francesco’s pastiche ‘GRAND HOTEL’ presents six situations occurring on New Year’s Eve, as a long-suffering bellboy retires and a young replacement is thrust into the position of night manager. His involvements with the diverse hotel guests range from improbable to downright absurd. All are giggle-gleaning situations.
The pivotal character (“Anthony D’Antonio”) is amusingly rendered by Gabriel Cameron whose physique and facial expressiveness evoke memories of the late Stan Laurel. Director Mandi Sunshine has him emphasize the time-honored system of palm-greasing and Cameron’s character takes it to a new high (low) of avarice. A ludicrous baby-sitting situation; a morale-boosting event; the involvement with a movie star’s entourage and even a novel take on the usual No-Tell – Motel arrangement revolve on manager Anthony’s participation. Cameron aces each vignette.
There are some noticeable directorial flaws. Swiveling doors rather than hinged doorframes are a distraction, as are the overly delayed scene-change re-setting. But most glaring is the overly weak projection by the strippers. The lines are creatively funny; it’s a shame the audience has to cup an ear to grasp the punchlines. Although most of the subplots are telegraphed, the pace needs accelerating.
Now all the positives…The retiring bellhop cameo is Hannad Afzal and his boozy tutorial session with Cameron is played for comedy but has a certain integral pathos; especially as he exits through the audience – stage left. The pas de deux between horny ‘Derrick’ and his intended ‘Jessica’ are an example of cohesive casting…Kai Bravo & Rosey Tyler both advocate their respective roles. A standout representation of the patronizing P.R. rep is contributed by Sammy Allouba who can do as much with a Cuban ‘Corona Grande’ as did Clinton; Groucho or even Ziggy Freud! His understating the portrayal is proof positive that in theatre, sometimes “LESS is more”.
The movie star is Yasmine Mohamed and she physically and charismatically renders all the motifs associated with the Lohan/Farrah/Nicole/Tatum’s and famously ‘Dorothy Gale’* all of whom couldn’t handle the fame and obsequiousness endemic with success. The play’s standout portrayal is young ‘Ignatius’ who our hero must baby-sit. Basketball player-sized Mahaffey Khan bestows even a Tom Cruise talk-show moment in his milking the role for every miniscule comedic opportunity. His contribution cannot be overemphasized.
The costumes, background music and lighting are effective and professional. The cheap plastic glasses and liquid-less booze pourings are jarring & slapdash; like hanging foam dice on a Benz’s rearview mirror. Overall, GRAND HOTEL is worth a stopover and will be at the Maja Prentice Theatre until May 31st. Call 647-858-2153 for tickets.
* aka Judy Garland!