Dallas — "What in the hell was that?" That’s an inner-monologue exclamation that happens often when watching (Ron) Alexy’s solo show, Heaven, Hell and That Burning Place of Fire at the Margo Jones Theatre, co-presented by Nouveau 47 Theatre and VoiceGeek Dallas. And it’s not necessarily a bad thing.
What happens when a crazy conspiracy theorist turns out to be right? That’s the basic premise of Alexy’s show—but it doesn’t do what happens on the stage justice. The show is frenetic both in plot and pace, driven only by Alexy’s seemingly boundless energy.
The show starts off intriguingly. An exploration of Illuminati conspiracy theories is a sadly underutilized subject, whether it be for comedic or dramatic purposes. However, by confirming the wild-eyed conspiracies, the show veers from critical commentary into fantasy that, while not necessarily a knock against it, does lessen any impact.
Because the show doesn’t just confirm Alexy’s character’s otherwise chuckle-worthy indictments of society, it fully embraces them and takes them to their literal end, apocalypse and all. This highlights the main critique of the piece: It's a tale of two shows.
Though likely not Alexy’s intention, the point where his characters' fears are made true acts as a dividing line between two shows. Or rather, that’s the moment when the true show is revealed.
Until that point, it’s all someone can do to keep up with what’s happening on the stage. Is it a commentary on culture, or is it just a start? If it’s just a story, it takes awhile to get there. At two acts and a nearly two hour running time, unusual for a solo performance, the plot proves so epileptic that it’s nearly impossible to ever get a true grasp on its intention.
So, let’s assume it’s just a crazy story from a truly adventurous mind. Taking that assumption, the story is too long and unfocused. True, ultimately a line is traced throughout the plot, temporally tying it all together. But between beginning and end there are countless tangents and several hard turns that make the action difficult to follow. Even more so when Alexy is trying to juggle several characters at once, especially when dressed as a goth kid’s Halloween costume in the second act.
Not that Alexy didn’t have top-notch help. With Erin Singleton directing, and script development help from Ben Schroth and Matthew Tomlanovich, it’s clear Alexy has some talent. Schroth, especially, is known for his own thoroughly out-there writing, with one huge difference. While Schroth is a talented modern absurdist, Alexy’s show lacks the hallmarks of the genre, which makes it a merely interesting story.
Alexy is talented. And if nothing else, he’s certainly committed to his work. But, the story is long and unfocused, and Alexy trips up enough to warrant a mention. It’s a show that, with more development, could be great.
It’s not heaven. It’s not hell. It’s not even that burning place of fire, assuming that’s different than hell. Or maybe that burning place of fire is the creative mind. In which case, Alexy is there, banging at the gates, soon to be let in.