It is the year 2136. Humans are routinely implanted with sensory hardware that allows them to record and share their own experiences for download. These downloaded experiences are called “feelies”. A culture of vicarious (and often debaucherous) distraction is celebrated. Those who can record the most downloaded experiences are stars, their wealth and fame contributing to their wild popularity.
Sound sort of familiar? It should. The Virtual Stage’s Broken Sex Doll kicks our own voyeuristic pleasures and obsessions with distraction into overdrive. What would we do if we didn’t need even our tiny screens to see, hear, smell, and taste the lives of others? What lows would we sink to if all moral impediments to indulging our needs for distraction were removed?
When watching a musical love story full of sex, robots, and, well, sex robots, it’s best to just go with it. Broken Sex Doll can feel a bit silly or exaggerated at times, but so is our tabloid culture. Like your favourite childhood sci-fi flick, the design concept has a fantastic 80s feel, the villains are wonderfully villainous and the heroes are heartwarmingly loveable. As a bonus, it’s pretty damn funny too–Experience the frustrations of running the set-up program on your brand new sex-bot! Find out why a wave of feelie-downloading females suddenly want penises! Get totally icked out by a mother-son soft shoe routine!
Supported by a tight ensemble cast, the Virtual Stage’s leads form a powerhouse theatrical quartet, each bringing their own unique talents to the York stage. From the affable Everyman quality of Benjamin Elliott, reprising his Jessie-nominated role as Daryl (his virtuosic physical work complemented by a charming emotional depth), to the sexy physical prowess of former Cirque du Soleil performer Neezar as The King; and from Greg Armstrong-Morris’ frankly frightening diva-esque machinations as The King’s Mom, to the sweet clear-as-bell singing voice of Chelsea Rose Tucker as the mysterious Ginger, the cast of Broken Sex Doll pull off a surprisingly multifaceted and nuanced performance, combining lighthearted gyrating with deeper questions on the nature of the human experience.
Considering recent innovations like tablet computing and Google Glass, director and playwright Andy Thompson’s script feels remarkably prescient. You can certainly attend Broken Sex Doll for the laughs alone, but you may find yourself considering the premise in a more intellectual way. Broken Sex Doll has enough dramatic meat to have been a more serious play. The fact that Thompson and composer Anton Lipovetsky joined forces to make a musical comedy instead is just the audience’s good luck.
Broken Sex Doll runs at the York Theatre (639 Commercial Dr.) until November 22. Tickets can be purchased online through The Cultch’s website. Minors are not permitted in the theatre during evening performances, and all performances, including matinees, will contain mature content and language.
Disclosure: I attended Thursday night’s performance of Broken Sex Doll courtesy of The Cultch.