Thursday, February 18, 2016

Review: The Matron and the Mechanic

Imagine a world where disease has destroyed a population and has forced regulation on human interaction and intimacy. And imagine that humans are forced to work as matrons for sex robots who serve as the vessel of love. That’s the world Emilie Collyer has dreamed up in the futuristic romance The Good Girl presented by Joyseekers Theatre at 59e59.
The Good Girl follows Anjali, a government-issued madam, who provides a robot who has been experiencing human-like emotions. When Ven, the mechanic, comes to save the day and fix the sex robot, the pair engage in an intimate bond of work and play. As the sex robot becomes so humane that more clients seek refuge with her, Anjali and Ven venture down a deep, dark hole of emotions that are unwarranted. With a gamut of styles, playwright Emilie Collyer’s science-fiction dark comedy explores the central theme of human connection. The Good Girl is fantastically absurd. Or is it absurdly fantastic? Either way, The Good Girl is unique. Clocking in under an hour, Collyer doesn’t offer fluff, getting to the point and never straying. For those looking for something consistent stylistically, this is not a play for you. Spanning from something in the realm of sitcom to noir thriller, The Good Girl covers it all. But it’s the way that Collyer structures her piece that establishes the evolution of Anjali and Ven’s relationship. She incorporates an exquisite cadence of dialogue. By shifting from fast-talking to moments of measured stillness highlights the intimacy of the story. With the intricate dialogue being what it was, perhaps Collyer ran into trouble in the science fiction element of the world, meaning she relied on the audience to catch on fast. And it’s possible that didn’t happen. While she kept most of the terminology accessible, we don’t really know why we are where we are. It gets lost.
Bringing this play to life relied heavily on trust and chemistry. Thankfully, the duo of Giacomo Baessato and Leah Gabriel played nicely off of one another. Baessanto has Chris Pratt leading man qualities. He’s a little bit goofy but lovable and passionate. Ven could easily have been played like a stereotypical repairman but Baessanto crafted a character that was more dynamic and interesting to watch. Leah Gabriel’s Anjali was filled wit strength, determination, and a heart that burst out through the tense situation. Gabriel gave Anjali a grounded demeanor to start but just as her sexbot began to unravel, Anjali did too.
photo by Lloyd Mulvey
Director Adam Fitzgerald played with the various styles that Collyer presented him with. With so much opportunity, Fitzgerald provided variety. Were they cohesive? At times. But with little space to work with on scenic designer Dan Daly’s set, Fitzgerald made the most of it. Daly’s blue-toned retro looking apartment was smartly structured. Just that slight angle of the playing space compared to the audience riser added an element of unease. At first you had to wonder why the walls were built using a fabric but in that final scene as the skeleton of the structure was exposed and lighting designer Zach Blane’s horrifyingly awesome green light shined in, it made it all worthwhile. The sound design from Julian Evans was eerily, especially with the low rumbles creeping in. The only element of the production design that felt off was from costume designer Kaitlyn Day. Color was key in the overall design of The Good Girl. You could get away with the monotone grey that Anjali wore, though it certainly wasn’t interesting to look at. But the shirt that Ven was provided stuck out. And not in a positive manner. With so many cool colors on the stage, the introduction of yellows and browns in the plaid shirt was jarring. It felt like a mistake.
The Good Girl is a play for those who seek theater that’s a little bit weird and a lot a bit off. This is not your average dark comedy. Emilie Collyer has a vision of absurdity that allows her themes to echo.