2 min

Bumpy ride

A middling chick flick for gay men

TERRENCE & FLIPPANCY. Terrence Bryant plays an unassuming AIDS widow forced to deal with life's bizarre - and funny - twists and turns. Credit: Xtra files

An aging drag queen, a hot young stud, a middle-aged middle-class AIDS widow and a thief with a heart of gold are unlikely travelling companions in Ken Brand’s new play Burying Michael.

All of these characters are predictable and uncomplicated, but complexity is not what this frothy, bitter-sweet comedy is all about.

The play begins with the stodgy Max (Terrence Bryant) stealing the body of his recently deceased lover, Michael, on the night before the funeral in Winnipeg. Max stows the body in the back seat of his car and sets off to New Mexico for a secret burial in order to fulfill Michael’s last wish.

Max is a stable, house-in-the-burbs kind of guy, but his initial rash act sets off a chain reaction of adventure for him. He hooks up with the lascivious young Frank (Jason Jazrawy), who charms their way past border guards, police officers and roadside thieves (all played by David Macniven). Meanwhile, the old queen Albert (Brian Sexsmith), Michael’s best friend, is in hot pursuit of Max and the corpse.

Terrence Bryant is both sympathetic and appealing to watch as Max, and Jason Jazrawy’s saucy, young Frank generates real heat. Bryant and Jazrawy throw off some nice and unexpected sexual sparks together – it’s nice to see an intergenerational romance between fags portrayed as non-exploitative and tender.

Unfortunately, Albert spends most of the play driving on his own in pursuit of the duo. This means that poor Brian Sexsmith is forced to develop his character almost entirely through monologues, which makes the aging drag queen routine seem even more stilted and hackneyed than necessary.

Underneath the show’s comedy there’s a serious story about the toll of the AIDS epidemic and how sadly well acquainted middle-aged gay men are with death and dying. This theme is quite maudlin, but the over the-top vibe of Brand’s writing makes the sentimental drivel work.

David Oiye’s direction of the show’s more serious side is less forgivable; his heavy hands drain the charm from lines that should be lighthearted. Even worse, Oiye’s stiff (and somewhat random) blocking of the many monologues makes quite decent performances read like wooden caricatures.

Still, Burying Michael hits the right note for a dreary January evening because it doesn’t have illusions of grandeur – it’s the theatrical, gay male equivalent of a feel-good chick flick.

Burying Michael continues until Sun, Jan 28 at Tallulah’s Cabaret (12 Alexander St); call (416) 975-8555.