broken sex doll
The Virtual Stage in Vancouver brings us Broken Sex Doll, playing as part of the Magnetic North/ Stages Theatre Festivals until June 24th, 2014. This big, bold, Canadian science fiction, futuristic sex comedy musical is highly entertaining, features a strong cast of performers and also manages to deliver an insightful commentary on our culture and the perils of our obsession with physical perfection, voyeurism, Internet popularity and the largely patriarchal sex industry that quietly pervades so much of mainstream society.
The result is a compelling cross between The Toxic Avenger Musical and an Aqua music video. Broken Sex Doll takes place in 2136, in a time when humans have created these human-like Androids used mostly as a more convenient alternative for sex and possibly also companionship than the more flawed, complex and challenging female human. They also have become obsessed with downloading entirely immersive experiences from other people using technology transplanted into their arms- which allows them to live other people’s past experiences while literally sitting at home alone- which has given rise to a new and flourishing pansexual immersive pornography industry. The result, of course, is a population of people and Androids who are continuously overly-stimulated, yet ultimately lonely, unfulfilled and craving genuine affection.
Anton Lipovetsky’s music infuses the story with a very electric and contemporary energy and the cast is made up of strong and soulful pop singers. Chelsea Rose Tucker as the Android Ginger, Andrew Cohen as Daryl, the protagonist and Neezer, as The King- a YouTunes “Feelie” sensation, belt out the tunes with ferocity and musical theatre bravado. Greg Armstrong-Morris is hilarity abound as The King’s Mom and disturbing as the lecherous Repair Man. Andy Thompson’s lyrics are fun, sexually explicit and catchy. Thompson’s story is one that initially makes an audience laugh, but that leaves their minds spinning with concerns and ideas about how our society already breeds this obsession with other people and other people’s lives, with voyeurism in sex and a male-centric societal construction that dictates to women how they should dress, behave and program themselves in order to fit into the mainstream. There’s also some really flashy lighting design from Itai Erdal, awesome high-tech special effects and set pieces by David Roberts and Corwin Ferguson and really neat costumes and prosthetics by Drew Facey and Tomasz Sosnowski.
Andy Thompson covers a huge amount of ground in this story. On the one hand he uses Absurdist techniques of larger than life personalities and scenarios more familiar to cartoons and Superhero films to create the show’s comedy, while swathing everything in a black dystopian commentary on North American society, while attempting to weave in a love story and create the futuristic world for his characters to live in- all while they sing and dance to original music. So much of this is done expertly and the staging, choreography and casting are so proficient that the performers sell the story even in its weaker parts. Overall, I think Broken Sex Doll could benefit from some tightening up (no pun intended). There are a few moments where the 2 hour show lags, some of the rhyming in the lyrics is clunky and at times characters say what their feelings are overtly, when it would give them more depth to reveal them to each other in a more subtle way. This would mostly benefit the emerging love story between Daryl and Ginger- especially if the overall message Thompson wants to convey is a protection and celebration of our humanity and our capacity for being multifaceted and complex. There is also room to play with building higher stakes for the broken sex dolls. In a world where all the men are revealed to be such brazen and idiotic babies the audience never feels a real sense of danger for Ginger and her friends, who, despite being broken, are quite clever and pragmatic.
In all, Broken Sex Doll is an exciting piece of Canadian Theatre with an obvious future ahead of it filled with incredibly talented musical theatre actors. I look forward to seeing more from The Virtual Stage in the future. They really are pushing Canadian Musicals into the 21st Century.
Broken Sex Doll plays at the Sir James Dunn Theatre (6101 University Avenue) as part of the Magnetic North Theatre Festival and Eastern Front Theatre’s Stages Festival at the following times:
Saturday June 21: 8pm
Sunday June 22: 9pm
Monday June 23: 7pm
Tuesday June 24: 9pm