Sex T-Rex delivers huge laughs, inventive stagecraft at the Storefront Theatre in Toronto
Do you like your westerns with a side order of spontaneous musical outburst? Do you prefer your fantasy adventures to be of the 8-bit variety? If so, then the irresistible double feature of Watch Out Wildkat and Swordplay: A Play of Swords, two Sex T-Rex favourites from Toronto Fringes past, are playing in repertory at the Storefront Theatre, and you really can’t afford to miss it.
Seriously, you cannot.
Both shows are roughly an hour long, and if you only want to see one, that’s an option. I recommend seeing both, simply because both are good for the same reasons: they’re both awash in genre-love, and characterized by high energy, inventive stagework, incredible comedic choreography and an evenly charismatic cast.
Watch Out Wildkat! is the first of the evening, a parody of western films that tells the story of WildKat MacReady, a bounty huntress on the trail of her father’s murderer. Along the way, she links up with the Devil himself to fight a dastardly gambling villain who has a few tricks up his many sleeves.
I really enjoyed Wildkat, and particularly the chemistry between WildKat (Kaitlin Morrow) and the Devil (Conor Bradbury). Morrow’s tough-as-nails WildKat, hilariously humourless and perpetually scowling, serves as a wonderful contrast to Bradbury’s charming but ultimately rather useless Devil. There’s a strange tenderness to the relationship that’s unexpectedly engaging, even in the midst of all the action and mayhem exploding across the stage.
Tonally, it’s a fun mix between a bloody revenge-fest and a buddy road trip flick, and the two genres blend surprisingly well together here. Sex T-Rex’s style is distinctively cinematic, using minimal props and dramatic choreography to create the illusion of close-up shots or dramatic pans. As finger-guns are drawn and bullets soar across the stage, back and forth in an incredibly physical display (the actors play just about everything, from bullets to crows to tumbleweeds to gusts of wind), they simply don’t allow you to ever look away.
That rapid energy and relentless onslaught of jokes from all directions carries over into the second half of the evening, where we move from Old West grit to the retro romance of Swordplay: A Play of Swords.
If you were lucky enough to catch Swordplay at this past Fringe, then I’ll just say that nothing much has changed here. It’s still remarkably high energy, with a whiplash pace filled with non-stop jokes and dozens of clever, inventive twists on classic fantasy tropes.
The real brilliance of the story–essentially, about two knights trying to save a princess from the evil Baron who has kidnapped her–is that it operates as both a hilarious send-up of the fantasy genre, but also an entertaining swashbuckling romp in its own right. The audience tonight ‘aww’ed when characters were defeated, clapped when they triumphed, and were audibly engaged with the storyline for more, I believe, than mere laughs (though they received those in abundance).
It’s the sort of parody that works because it has such a love and appreciation for the source material, but by the same token doesn’t feel bound to simply mimic what made its targets great. It uses its references (predominantly A Princess Bride, Final Fantasy and The Three Musketeers) to build its own fun and twisted universe, offering a few nods of the head before moving firmly on, finding humour by turning the old tropes to new purpose.
I’ve been lucky enough to see Swordplay: A Play of Swords before–twice, in fact, which I suppose stands as a testament to how downright entertaining it is. Seeing it a second time is rewarding in a totally different sense. You lose the element of surprise, but you also gain the privilege of being a little more in on a lot of the twists and turns. It’s fun to see it multiple times and pick up on little bits of foreshadowing, making passing jokes doubly funny not just in retrospect, but in the moment.
I’m in love with these shows, and I think the Storefront is an excellent venue for them, with solid acoustics and just enough empty space for the cast to play around in without losing the do-it-yourself style of theatre that Sex T-Rex really thrives at producing.
When it comes to parody, Sex T-Rex are some of the best I’ve seen in any medium. I always leave their shows sore from laughing and still grinning from ear to ear. They deserve to play to sold-out shows every night, so do yourself a favour and rearrange your life to see these fine folks at work. I swear it’ll be worth it.
- Sex T-Rep runs from March 11th to March 27th at the Storefront Theatre – 955 Bloor St. West.
- Two hour long shows are included: Watch Out WildKat! (7:30) and Swordplay: A Play of Swords (9:00). Tickets are 20 dollars for a single show, or 30 for both together.
- Tickets can be purchased online or in person at the box office.
Photo of Julian Frid, Seann Murray, Danny Pagett by John Gundy.