Set in a near-future where ‘augmentations’ of the human body — bionic limbs, enhanced retinas — are common to all, Stacey Gregg’s play tackles big themes and does so in an engaging manner.
The play centres on a young couple who have retreated from ‘tech’ culture to an idyll steeped in “rustic chic”, portraying the crisis that flares up when it emerges that one of them is ‘enhanced’.
This conflict is a platform that allows the play’s themes — the influence of technology, the contested definition of humanity — to emerge, but the affected ‘bobo’ couple are themselves a little too contrived. While Gregg’s dialogue is vibrant enough, and actors George Hanover and Shane O’Reilly do a nimble job of imbuing their characters with warmth, the theatricality of this lover’s mega-tiff is a tad too talky. (The show’s set design — while visually suggestive — is itself also a little noisy.) Nevertheless, the play’s core themes do emerge well via the dialogue, as do subtle themes of class and gender.
The play’s second half, however, is more thrilling as the piece morphs into something else — a weird cyber-cultural study in grief and melancholia. Inventively, the grief-stricken figure here pines for an object that is not yet lost, and which — in a future world where technology enables variations on immortality — maybe doesn’t ever have to be lost. The staging becomes less noisy and far more immediate and intimate.
The earlier hand-wringing about technology is gone, replaced by an affecting meditation upon the permeable limits of the ‘human’ in the posthumanist age. This is Gregg’s real quarry, and she and director Sophie Motley expertly get to the heart of the matter, among other things exploring how humans have always transferred their humanity to non-human objects. Ultimately, the play overrides its own contrivances to hit a real sweet spot, and there are some lovely moments, including a knowing audio-visual gag involving a blast of Daft Punk, as well as a dark, funny, and very poignant depiction of auto-eroticism.
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