Glace Chase’s play, Triple X, has finally hit the Sydney Theatre Company mainstage and it has been well worth the elongated wait. Fresh, complex, and hugely entertaining, this exploration of the love between a cis man and trans woman quickly demolishes your expectations and takes you on a ride filled with ethical backflips, emotional diversions, and a few sneaky red herrings. For all the tricks (pun intended) at its core, it is the dynamic chemistry between its lead performers that really seals the deal.
Scotty (Josh McConville) is a Wall Street banker who is losing himself in a world devoted to money and status (his fiancée will be furious if their wedding isn’t featured in The New York Times). His best friend, Jase (played by understudy Anthony Taufa on opening night), is joking about his dodgy dating life and threatening to tell horrendous stories in his wedding speech. Scotty’s mother Deb (Christen O’Leary) is on edge, will her dress be good enough for the rehearsal dinner? When Claire (Contessa Treffone), Scotty’s backpacking lesbian sister bursts through the door, it’s clear how different Scotty’s current life is from that of his childhood.
Over the course of the play it’s teased out that Scotty is in fact not the ‘finance bro’ asshole he at first appears to be. When Scotty admits his love of Dirty Dancing, it’s clear there’s more under the surface. His quest for money is more about freedom and paying his mother’s medical bills, than it is about status. But once on that track, he’s realizing it’s hard to get off.
Enter Dexie (Glace Chase), a trans drag performer who finds Scotty passed out at the bar she’s working at, and manages to get him back to his apartment. It’s a chance encounter with a Good Samaritan that Scotty can’t stop thinking about.
Triple X is excellent on so many levels. Reportedly the first trans story to be told on a main stage anywhere in the world, Chase undercuts any sense of a “woke agenda” with good-hearted (and foulmouthed) humour – there are no lectures in this script. Our activist brethren get poked fun at as much as fast-fashion brand Zara does. And the Zara burns are gooooood!
It is genuinely electric to watch Chase and McConville fall in love onstage. Like watching a boxing match, the two duck and weave around each other in true rom-com fashion (think Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy). But it’s not all playful flirting, Dexie knows how these things can go down. She knows drunk straight guys can sometimes get violent too. Meanwhile Scotty is trying to wrap his head around his attraction to this magnetic performer.
The juxtaposition of their two worlds makes for a lot of fun—Dexie think’s she’s doing well if she makes $150 a night, Scotty is mad he only got a $95,000 bonus—and the small moments of honesty between them ring loud and true. It’s all gold rom-com/emotional drama fodder to be mined and the script goes there. This is a tight, revelatory play, filled with details that feel well lived-in. It’s by turns coarse and rude, endearingly sweet and shockingly honest. There is a point, a Sliding Doors moment if you will, when the story could swing either way; give us a heartwarming ending of unlikely love triumphing over the odds, or steer itself toward a sadder emotional truth. My mind can’t help but play with the ‘what ifs’ of it all…
At the core of Triple X are two heavyweight performances from Chase and McConville. To be honest, I expected no less from Chase – as the writer of this partially autobiographical play she knows this world and this character backwards and delivers on every front. Her comedy chops are on full display from Dexie’s physical pratfalls and sharp one-liners, to the script that is surgical in its execution of a long-running gag (the ever-evolving revelations about avocado oil are a masterclass in teasing out information for comedic effect – seriously this script is fucking brilliant). Dexie’s skill for turning a moment on its head, in jest or self-defense, makes her a thrilling protagonist.
But it is McConville’s nuanced performance of Scotty that really gives the show an emotional foundation. Every thought and impulse fickers across his face, it is an emotionally rich performance full of honesty and humanity. All his internal conflicts are suppressed but read so clearly to the audience. It is a truly excellent piece of work. Together they are stage dynamite!
Around this couple orbit a group of supporting performances that don’t quite soar as high as the leads however, at times descending into a shouty, one-note delivery that runs over the dialogue. And these supporting characters are a gift to the performer, each as complex on paper as the main duo.
But for whatever faults the production may have, this is a spectacular show. It is an exciting play putting trans experiences before audiences in a way that entertains and illuminates at the same time. I predict we’ll be seeing productions around the world very soon and… damn it, I’ll just throw this out there – make it a movie and complete the rom-com journey!
By Chad Armstrong
Triple X plays at Sydney Theatre Company, Sydney Australia until February 26th 2022. Tickets are available now.