Ali & Ali 7: RCMP, Immigration and tasers – Oh My!

Ali & Ali 7 Return to the stage for another outrageous skewering of Canadian Multiculturalism

WORLD PREMIERE of Ali & Ali
Created and performed by Camyar Chai, Guillermo Verdecchia and Marcus Youssef
Co-starring Laara Sadiq and Raugi Yu
Directed by Guillermo Verdecchia

at the Cultch’s Historic Theatre
Apr 14–24
Tickets for Cultch Performances available at 604-251-1363 or https://tickets.thecultch.com/

at the Shadbolt Centre for the Arts’ Studio Theatre
April 28 – May 1
Tickets for Shadbolt performances at 604-205-3000 or boxoffice@burnaby.ca

Ali & Ali are to Canadian multiculturalism what Wayne & Shuster
are to Canadian culture.  They poke fun at ourselves, to help us laugh
at the absurdity of our history and culture.

But in today's world, Wayne & Shuster, comedy kings of the 1960's and 1970's, have given way to Kids from the Hall, and Russell Peters.  Canadian culture is no longer white and red, our cultural diversity includes black and yellow and pink and especially brown.  Canadians also come from Iran, Iraq, Lebanon and Azerbaijian.  Wayne & Shuster used to make fun of foreign accents.  Camyar Chai and Marcus Youssef as brown immigrant refugees from the fictional country of Agraba, take ethnic jokes to a whole different level – but with some very serious political commentary.

This
was my first time at Ali & Ali. I really enjoyed reading the
published play Ali & Ali and the Axes of Evil.  I couldn't stop laughing at some of the bits about Asian Heritage Month, and the Scottish stage manager.  For the 2010 Gung Haggis Fat Choy Robbie Burns Chinese New Year Dinner, I had invited Marcus Youssef to read/perform an excerpt with comedian Charles Demers.  So I wasn't going to miss them.

The show opens with a montage of  current world leaders from Libya, USA, and Canada.  It's a tribute rap to Moammar Gadhafi.  Wow… we are definitely in a different cultural perspective here.  The play is interactive with the audience, asking questions, getting responses.  Surprise!  They are spoofing and utilizing experimental theatre audience participation as well as Bertolt Brecht's agitprop theatre.

Ali & Ali are presenting a show to the audience.  They introduce their assistant as Yogi Ru, in actuality Vancouver actor Raugi Yu.  Raugi is the straight man to this zany duo, even dressing up as Obama's Portuguese Water Dog. 

Along the way, an ethnic South Asian RCMP officer (Laara Sadiq) appears, to charge
Ali & Ali with illegal immigration to Canada.  A kangaroo court (or
would it be a “moose court” in Canada?) ensues and Ali & Ali must
defend and explain themselves. This is where the character of Raugi steps up as an interpreter to
explain the actions of Ali & Ali to the RCMP officer.  But true to
Ali & Ali interpretation and misinterpretion, as Canadian
sacred institutions
such as the RCMP are poked with scenarios including tasers and cultural sensitivity
training. Broad outrageous humour got loud laffs from the audience –
especially the puppet show!

Ali & Ali poke some fun at Barak Obama's New
World Order. The puppet show took on a weird outrageous vibe, as talking heads of Afro-American movement cultural icons, criticize Obama policies in the White House.  It would have been nice if they had been able to identify who their “Jiminy Cricket” conscience guides were, as many audience members are probably not versed in Afro-American revolutionaries such as Malcolm X and Angela Davis.  

Some serious topics are addressed such as
prison detention & torture, illegal immigration and deportation.  This show uses the slap stick humour to set up and explain the underlying social commentary.  How does a normal human being cope with being detained in prison on unspecific charges?  The balance between the serious and absurdist swings back and forth, eliciting emotional reactions from the audience.  Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.  There are many in-jokes, dependent upon the audience's knowledge of many things.  It is like a television channel-flipping barrage of issues.  But the play succeeds in informing the audience about our country's detention of prisoners, and it creating new cultural perspectives of multiculturalism.  Sometimes, how you see the world really does depend on what colour your eyes are.

Definitely not for everybody – but neither was Monty Python or Wayne & Shuster.

Check out the Neworld website:
http://www.neworldtheatre.com/productions-ali-and-ali-7.html

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