We once again find ourselves in the currently popular, grim, post-apocalyptic future. Anjali (Leah Gabriel) lives in a sterile, minimalist apartment, one among hundreds in a hive like edifice. She’s apparently never been outside. The building’s handyman, Ven (Giacomo Baessato), exits the bedroom with a drill, having finished repairs. He finds her baking. Both characters are dressed in today’s casual clothes, the drill is current as are the room’s appliances.
Ven is attracted, awkward. Anjali appears impervious. She insists he go back and check “sequence” again before leaving. He does and returns. From the bedroom, we hear electronic sounds, then a woman reaching orgasm and crying. “Isn’t that irregular?” Ven asks suspiciously. The female he’s been servicing is a sexbot, a robot prostitute for whom the tenant serves as madam.
How could an android display such human feelings? It seems that when Anjali has strong emotions, the “girl” picks them up with some kind of osmosis. Tears bring more customers. The sexbot now says “don’t go,” afterwards. Men love it. As people no longer readily experience certain emotions, nor, it seems, physical human contact, thrill and novelty has business booming.
Ven can stop the aberration with one report. The tenant offers him a freebe with her bot. Instead, discovering that Anjali can cook, he blackmails her into feeding him a meal of real food every day – the implication being this no longer exists except perhaps among the upper class. It will, Ven thinks, give him a chance to “get to know” Anjali better. She grudgingly agrees.
Over the course of time, these two cross a bridge of personal contact, partially in order to imbue the sexbot with tendencies she could never ordinarily manifest. Clients increasingly request more dramatic/violent sessions. Anjali and Ven unwittingly create a Frankenstein.
It’s an interesting concept with particulars that will chill. Unfortunately, Playwright Emilie Collyer includes scenes she’s explained in her own mind, but not in narrative. There’s one in a bar bathroom with either two other characters or these two pretending or it’s a dream. Not a clue. In another, the two seem to have been drugged – leading us to falsely believe they’d been caught – wreacking havoc with real and false memories. In a third, domestic issues rise completely without context.
The ending is terrific, but there’s too much ambiguous writing between intriguing premise and imaginative resolution to make the play work.
Both actors take some time to warm up and then, through no fault of their own (Director-Adam Fitzgerald) scream their way through a good part of the proceedings. Surely this is not the only way to show anxiety, confusion, anger and fear. When they have something to get their teeth into, Gabriel and Baessato have good passages.
Photos by Lloyd Mulvey
Joyseekers Theatre presents
The Good Girl by Emilie Collyer
Directed by Adam Fitzgerald
Featuring Leah Gabriel & Giacomo Baessato
59E 59 Theaters
59 East 59th Street
Through February 28, 2016