THE ADVENTURES OF ALI & ALI AND THE AXES OF EVIL by Marcus Youssef, Guillermo Verdecchia and Camyar Chai, directed by Verdecchia, with Youssef and Chai. Presented by Cahoots Theatre Projects and NeWorld Theatre at Theatre Passe Muraille (14 Ryerson). Runs to March 7, Tuesday-Saturday 8 pm, matinee Sunday 2:30 pm (and some stu matinees). $15-$25, Sunday and Tuesday pwyc. 416-504-7529. Rating: NNNN
Need a reminder of how smart, relevant and entertaining live theatre can be? Then check out The Adventures Of Ali & Ali And The Axes Of Evil . Suggesting everything from a Bob Hope visit-the-troops vehicle to an old-style minstrel show, it cleverly targets any number of issues, from earnest Canadian-immigrant plays (some of which its co-producer, Cahoots Theatre , has mounted itself) to corporate rebranding.
The show's chief satiric mission, though, is to expose the xenophobic finger-pointing and hysteria of our neighbours to the south. This is a piece in which, via a paranoid security guard's reportage, we discover that the axis of evil may stem from a shopping mall washroom.
Away from their fictional homeland of Agraba - detailed in a hilarious CBC parody, Agraba: A People's History - hosts Ali Hakim ( Camyar Chai ) and Ali Ababwa ( Marcus Youssef ) take over the Theatre Passe Muraille space.
Trying to placate a theatre producer played by token white guy Tom Butler (who gets to wear an Aladdin-style outfit and a kilt with bagpipes), the two entertain us with everything from a political puppet show to bum jokes.
Crude? Occasionally. Funny and intelligent? Always.
Co-writer Guillermo Verdecchia directs the 100-minute show so there are few slack moments, while Chai and Youssef deliver their scathing words with jaw-dropping energy and precision. A set-piece constructed like a movie pitch-session to CBC journalist Ian Hanomansing (because he's a "successful brown person") plays into our sentimental cultural stereotypes. A later sequence about the rebranding of Osama bin Laden is satire at its most savage.
Will this play, a co-pro with Cahoots and Vancouver's NeWorld Theatre , be performed in a decade? Probably not. The quips about current political players tie it to its time. But its uncompromising look at how we deal with history and culture in the theatre makes it universal.