The Tropic of X is a poetic, visceral, sucker punch to the gut. You won’t be able to look away.
– Jasmine Winter, Montreal Theatre Hub
“The Tropic of X not only subverts all expectations. It grabs any idea you had about what it would be and stomps on it.” Sophie Gee explains in her director’s note, which could not have more perfectly summed up my thoughts as the house lights came up at the end of the show. Imago Theatre once again proves itself to be “a catalyst of conversation” as they bring us a radical and visceral story from the kids at the bottom of the capitalist food chain.
The story is portrayed by five amazingly skilled and talented actors; a DJ cowboy named Hilton (Gitanjali Jain), who is a constant observer, poetically reporting on the goings-on of this tropical consumerist wasteland; Kiki (Victor Andres Trelles Turgeon), a gossip-loving-transgender-prostitute-drug-dealer; Fabian/Frankie (Eric Davis), who appears in five different forms and represents, in Davis’ words, “all of the bad guys”; and last but not least, our lovers Mori (Braulio Elicer) and Maura (Arlen Aguayo Stewart), two street kids, filling their lives with arcade games, filling their bellies with fake food, and chasing their next high.
Mori, Maura and Kiki live near the beach of an unidentified latin country, separated from an ocean of garbage by a crumbling concrete wall full of tags and graffiti. The ground they walk, fight and sleep on is shiny and metallic, like aluminum foil. Set and costume designer Eo Sharp and director Sophie Gee collaborated to use this to represent the mineral-rich soil of Latin America. Those precious minerals that were extracted as natural resources and then sold back to their native people as Americanized goods. Everything about the set, as well and the hip-hop, electronic soundscape (designed by Mariano Franco, with influence from Elicer), reflects years and years of history. A history that is constantly being rewritten by those who hold the power.
After an opening monologue from Hilton, Maura begins by calling out to a tourist she refers to as ‘Juicy Fruit’ – demanding a piece of gum. We can’t see the tourist that she yells to because in fact, she’s just yelling at us. We as spectators are tourists here, in their story and in their country. “Tourists in the land of plastic, elastic, mescaline rush,” as Maura puts it. Experiencing from a distance what their life is like, consuming their words and emotions, accepting their services, without the pressure of having to live with the consequences, and there’s no shortage of consequences here.
Mori and Maura. Lovers bound together. Partners in crime within the arcade game that they imagine their lives to be. A contemporary, Latin American, Bonnie and Clyde. These kids have nothing but each other, and it’s once they are separated that they begin to reveal to us how unforgiving being at the bottom can be. “When you’re at the bottom, you better know everything. Because we’re the first to get screwed. We’re disposable.” There’s no second chances anymore.
Altogether this cast and crew gave off the air of an incredibly genuine and unified ensemble, as they shook off the heaviness of this poetic, hip-hop infused story and sat down to a talk-back with the audience. One should be warned there’s quite a bit of violence and sexual content within the story. You hardly see a moment on stage where sex does not mean violence, and vice versa. Both of these play a huge part in the daily lives of these characters. However, it was nuanced, honest, and incredibly important. The moment the show started until the actors took their final bows, I had no hope of pulling my eyes away.
Imago Theatre presents
The Tropic of X
Performances: January 29 – February 8
Venue: Centaur Theatre (453 St Francois Xavier St.)
Box Office: (514) 288-1229 | www.imagotheatre.ca/tropicofx
Pay-What-You-Decide tickets available every night.
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