Review- Ali & Ali: The Deportation Hearings (Neworld Theatre)

by Lucy Allen

Ali & Ali: The Deportation Hearings, which opened this week at the Factory Theatre, is the sort of play that relies entirely on its actors to pull off the heavy political messages it’s giving.  For the most part they do, providing many laughs throughout the night.

Ali & Ali: The Deportation Hearings begins with amateur performers Ali Hakim (Guillermo Verdecchia) and Ali Ababwa (Marcus Youssef) presenting their play “Yo Mama, Osbama” to celebrate the election of Barrack Obama.  But the wacky presentation is suddenly cut short when a mountie (Anita Majumdar) arrives with accusations that the two are providing firearms to terroist organizations.  In no time at all, the stage becomes a court room and the two must attempt to prove themselves innocent or risk deportation.

It’s grim subject matter, but the tone remains highly comical.  All of this is due to Verdecchia’s and Youssef’s over the top performances.  Their energy, jokes and audience interaction were a delight to watch.  Joining them was Paul Sun-hyung Lee as their mongolian assitant Hong Kong Lee, who provided some of the greatest moments of the show.  His straight man performance balanced off the absurd Alis perfectly.  Anita Majumdar was the slightly weak link in the show for my show partner and I.  I just couldn’t quite get around to believing her performance, but as the show went on she began to grow on me.

The show sometimes plays out more like a sketch comedy show than a conventional play.  Often the characters would veer off to do a “play within a play” or re-enact scenes from their favourite movie.  Sometimes a character would ad lib a line, causing the others to fight back their own laughter.  This was all in the spirit of the show though, and was not too distracting for me.

As entertaining as the show was, sometimes the comedy would seem somewhat unfocused.  Some sequences, like the puppet show, was fun but just went on a little too long for me.  There were points where I didn’t know where to look on stage and some of the jokes felt a bit forced.  This was my opinion though.  My show partner on the other hand loved every bit of the show.   We spent a long time afterwards debating just why we felt so radically different about the show, especially the ending which takes a sudden serious turn.

There is no distinctive audience that will universally enjoy Ali & Ali: The Deportation Hearings.  Some people will love the absurd jokes, some will love when the action becomes more somber, some might not like it all.  But one thing is for sure, it will make you think about your own beliefs and assumptions.  It also helps to have such talented comic actors to pull it all off.

Ali & Ali: The Deportation Hearings runs at the Factory Theatre Studio Space (16 Ryerson Ave) until Oct. 17
-Shows are Tues-Sat at 8pm and Sun at 2:30pm
-Tickets are $32 with PWYC tickets ($15 suggested) on Sun
-Tickets can be purchased online or by calling the box office at 416-504-9971
-Photo provided by Staf Publicists