SEX T-REX ROARS IN CRIME AFTER CRIME (AFTER CRIME)
Toronto theatre team scores in a phenomenal parody of crime film genres.
Period genres in the movies carry markings as distinct as leopard spots. For example, in film noir of the 1940s and 50s, everyone on screen smokes cigarettes, which adds to the look of the movie, creating a particular atmosphere. One thinks of the black and white crime flicks like the Maltese Falcon, The Big Sleep, and a Touch of Evil. In films from the 1970s, the fashions are clingy and slinky, and the moves on the disco floor are highly identifiable. Movies like Saturday Night Fever or even the controversial Cruising, exposing the interior of a gay leather bar, come to mind .
Parodies of such works give a wink and nod to nostalgia. This make us laugh, but such “gags” won’t hold our attention for long. They’re fun, as in a short skit on Saturday Night Live, but the joke quickly wears thin. To create a sustained parody is much harder. The storyline must grab us, and each gag must top the next, raising the stakes, driving the narrative. For a parody to succeed, it must be as interesting as the material it sends up. Think of the movie Airplane that brilliantly spoofs all the disaster films of the 1970s.
Sex T-Rex is a small Toronto-based theater company. Recently, I saw its sold-out show Crime After Crime (After Crime), staged in a large room, complete with pre-show “atmosphere” to get you in the mood. This includes a gaming table, speakeasy bar, and line-up where you can get “mug shots”.
The play, Crime After Crime is an extended parody of several crime genres, rather like three integrated plays, all wildly comic, and astoundingly inventive. The work is a three-part parody, composed of a Film Noir, a Heist Film, and a Buddy Cop movie. All the action takes place in fictitious Crime City, U.S.A., over a period of 50 years, including the 1950s, late 1960s and 70s, and the top of the 1990s.
Part of the sheer glee of watching Crime After Crime is recognizing the look and specific lingo of the genres, which reference a given epoch. As an audience, we’re jacked up by the nostalgia of the music and songs, along with the period lighting that propels the action. Crime After Crime is hilarious, robust with snappy dialogue.
But what makes Crime After Crime work is its careful construction. There is a wondrous glide to the dialogue, the narrator’s running commentary, the nonsensical storyline, until the whole audience gets punch-drunk laughing. The action is so fast and furious, so inspired, so inventive and theatrical, it makes us giddy. The stage is mostly bare, except for a rack of costumes, and a chair. Four dexterous actors move so quickly, we imagine we’re watching a cast of thousands.
Seann Murray, Kaitlin Morrow, Julian Frid, and Conor Bradbury fill the stage with hilariously funny antics. The Sex T-Rex team is practiced so that even at high velocity, everything runs like clockwork. The actors know their lines, and all of their moves are as choreographed as dance. The team’s sheer physical prowess is key to their comedy. The whole show runs on imagination and a few basic props.
The cast collectively creates all the special effects. For example, they mime the wind that visibly flaps their overcoats as they dash about. Or, the troop rushes on stage in the dim, holding white clothes hangers to conjure an aerial combat battle, complete with gunfire. Finally, the cumulative lunacy causes the audience to lose it, and there is unstoppable cheering all round.
I can only pray that Sex T-Rex lines up an American producer who tours them everywhere. The company would make a fortune performing at college campuses alone. This is a politically dark epoch, and people will pay good money to laugh without the fear without restraint.
Hats off to:
Alex Dault and Victoria Laberge, producers; Connor Low, technical director; Kyah Green, LX technician.
All Photos: provided by Sex T-Rex.
©Text by Burke Campbell. All rights reserved.