I have complained profusely about the array of flimsy, clichéd and thoroughly unnecessary thesis statements that our theatre scene is producing. Like date squares, they’re not substantial enough to be of any value, nor decadent enough to be pleasurable. The last place I expected to see this pattern change was at the Mainline Theatre while watching Alex Cross and his Rise to Fame. And yet, here I am. My world has been rocked. My senses have been ravaged. And my hope has been rekindled.
Alex Cross and his Rise to Fame told the story of Richard Dick (Matt Xhingnesse), who unwittingly sells his soul (and his unfortunate name) to the devil (Donald Shepherd) to become a celebrity. The energy was up from beginning to end, and the jokes were frequent, groan-worthy and thoroughly enjoyable. The devil’s hold music was the song “Highway to Hell” – snort.
The acting was absolutely stunning – well, more like the actors were stunning. Fascinating to say the least. The Narrator (Franco DeCrescentis) had a face that would look more appropriate on a muppet (and I mean that in a very caring way – I happen to think the muppets are rather sexy). Alexander Cross’s facial features rearranged into one impossible configuration after another. Mr. Beelzebub captured the audience’s adoring gaze, as only a bastard-you-gotta-love can. As for the vision of loveliness standing behind him, Leonda (Ana Alarcon), oh the haikus I could write across those gorgeous cheekbones… Jesse’s (Erin Brahm) maniacal laugh had me laughing along with her. And as for the flock of actresses playing whatever beautiful woman needed to be played – seductress, fangirl, t.v. personality, all I can say is *insert catcall*.
All that good stuff aside, I have to say that what really got me with this piece was the bold, kooky message. The most common thesis found in today’s theatre is “the issue is complicated”. True as this may be of many issues, it does not bring anything new to the table. You can add as much sex and political incorrectness as you like, but if your ideas are stale, your work is not innovative or shocking; it is unnecessary and essentially conforming. Alex Cross (the play, not the character) has a thesis – a risqué thesis indeed. It is presented at the very beginning, with a powerpoint, no less. The thesis is that the debauchery in today’s music business is actually a satanic conspiracy. Now, whether or not anyone making this play believes this, and however much they ridicule their own message with the sheer campiness of the piece, the point is, they have taken the risk of making a statement that some people may disagree with. THANK GOD. Whether they take the form of a sexy, corny good time or a deep and intellectual piece, actually controversial and interesting ideas make for good theatre.
And if naked girls and conspiracy theories aren’t your thing, perhaps a free cupcake can lure you. You can win one by participating in one of the contests going on HERE. There’s something for everyone in Alex Cross and his Rise to Fame.
Alex Cross and his Rise to Fame is playing at Mainline Theatre (3397 St. Laurent) until Saturday, March 8. 16$.