Ali & Ali talk Tim Hortons, terrorists and tasers at the Factory Theatre
Featuring: Anita Mujumdar, Marcus Youssef, Guillermo Verdecchia and Paul Sun-Hyung Lee. Photo by Alex Felipe.
Created by Camyar Chai, Guillermo Verdecchia and Marcus Youssef, Ali and Ali: The Deportation Hearings is the follow up to the first Ali & Ali show (the axes of Evil), a political satire about two refugee entertainers from the fictional country of Agraba that focused on George W. Bush’s “war on terror.” The inspiration for the sequel came after the co-creators spent time in a Toronto bail hearing for security certificate detainee Mahmoud Jaballah.
This time around, Ali Ababwa (Marcus Youssef) and Ali Hakim (Guillermo Verdecchia) are trying to stage Yo Mama, Osbama!, a tribute to the new “half-black” president they believe will change everything. They are taken off guard when RCMP officer Constable Dhaliwal (Anita Majumdar) bursts in and accuses them of giving money to a terrorist organization called The Agrabanian People’s Front. From here, we witness Ali & Ali‘s deportation hearings, and we get the message that things have not changed much since the Bush days. We are still at war, and the Harper government has established its own “anti-terror” regime here in Canada.
Featuring: Marcus Youssef, Guillermo Verdecchia and Paul Sun-Hyung Lee. Photo by Alex Felipe.
We didn’t see the first Ali & Ali production, but judging by the reviews, it had more to offer than this latest incarnation. While Ali & Ali: The Deportation Hearings has its moments, it lacks focus and in the end the play’s serious theme overshadows the comedic tone of the production. The jokes are often over the top and not very funny. And the sketch comedy format doesn’t work well in a show that’s 80 minutes long. We found ourselves glancing at our watches a few times during the performance. The play’s political commentary on the unfair treatment of accused detainees is disturbing and has the potential to be very powerful, if only the delivery was less transparent.
Nevertheless, Youssef, Verdecchia and Paul Sun-Hyung Lee (who plays the “yellow” character Hong Kong Lee) are good physical comedians and they made us laugh now and then despite the fact that the show was decidedly not our thing. We were impressed by their ability to stay in character and Youssef in particular is great at doing accents. Majumdar is also fun to watch as the modern- day ”nondiscriminatory,” social media saavy Mountie.
The final verdict? Some may find this show amusing, but the half Timbit that Hong Kong gave us during the performance didn’t save it for us. Ali & Ali: The Deportation Hearings runs until October 17, 2010. Visit the Factory Theatre website for more information and to buy tickets online.