Volume 94, Issue 25

Friday, October 13, 2000


The sweetest fruit of all

London Swans ready to rock

Night is same old Love Inc.

Eat your heart out, Jimmy Dean

Eat your heart out, Jimmy Dean

Gazette File Photo

Come Back to the 5 and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean
Brigit Wilson, Maria Syrgiannis, Linda Goranson
Directed By: Kelly Handerek

By Matt Pearson
Gazette Staff

Like so many things in life, theatre can act as a mirror in which audiences see their lives and personal histories. This dramatic nostalgia is central to the Grand Theatre's season opener, Come Back to the 5 and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean.

The play, written by Ed Graczyk, recounts the lives of six women who once belonged to the Disciples of James Dean, a star struck group of young fans. Twenty years after the movie star's death, the women reunite to honour his memory and rediscover their past.

On a deeper level, the play is a cross-examination of icons. Juanita, the owner of the 5 and Dime, is a morally-driven, God-loving Christian. Mona, on the other hand, has allowed a brief encounter with Dean himself, to confuse her idea of God; leaving her with the belief that he is a prophet with her as a member of his chosen followers. She also believes that her son, Jimmy Dean, is the brooding actor's love child.

Aside from this tug of war, a series of other issues are interwoven into the fabric of the play including transsexuality, breast cancer, alcoholism and homophobia. Although it may sound like social issue overload, the script does an apt job of presenting them in a thoughtful manner.

The show's main problem is in the translation. Despite an impressive and entertaining first act, which sets an optimistic stage for what's to come, the cast appears to lose steam in the second half. The storyline's clarity becomes more blurred as further revelations surface. By the play's close, it seems that plot twists are added merely as afterthoughts.

Further problems are created with certain aspects of the play's blocking. On two occasions, a character named Sissy climbs a very tall ladder, but once she reaches the top, she doesn't do anything other than distract the audience. For those in the front rows, there may even have been moments when they thought she was about to end up in their laps. It certainly would have been in character for Sissy, but it wouldn't have been pretty.

The set design, created by London's own Aaron Felker, is simply brilliant. Its bright, busy atmosphere transformed the stage into a believable 1950s 5 and dime, complete with bar stools and a soda fountain.

For the most part, the show's acting is well done. Brigit Wilson's portrayal of Mona is convincing, while Linda Goranson's portrayal of the God-fearing Juanita is well-conceived. The standout performance certainly belongs to Maria Syrgiannis, who's Sissy was a potent mix of audacity and vulnerability.

It may not have been the explosive season kick off the Grand Theatre was hoping for, but Come Back to the 5 and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean, remains an impressive telling of a rather engrossing play.

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