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vancouverplays review


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— Production image

by Andy Thompson
The Virtual Stage
The Cultch
Mar. 13-24
From $17 or 604-251-1363

This is Jerry's review of the original production at The Cultch in 2013.

A robot-cyborg love story and the dirtiest show in town, Broken Sex Doll promises to be the biggest hit of the season and maybe the Next Big Thing in Canadian theatre.

Premiering at The Cultch in a short run certain to sell out, this audacious, futuristic sci-fi musical from Andy Thompson’s Virtual Stage company has a wild script and imaginative direction by Thompson, who also provides a half-dozen great sets of lyrics for Anton Lipovetsky’s terrific rock score (the show’s other songs badly need work), wicked choreography by Vanessa Goodman and Jane Osborne, technical wizardry from Brian Linds (sound), Itai Erdal, (lights) and Corwin Ferguson (video), along with a hilarious, near-perfect cast of beautiful women and hunky men.

And lots and lots of sex. Think The Rocky Horror Show with four-letter words.

Sometimes they’re two-letter words. For reasons cleverly revealed at the end, our hero Daryl—played with straight-faced comic brilliance by Benjamin Elliott—can’t pronounce the final consonants of those taboo sexual terms. So he goes around either bragging or complaining about the thing between his legs that rhymes with sock, which he chokes out in an unbelievably funny series of riffs sounding something like “my co...ah...uh.” His songs include “I’m Gonna Be Big” and “I Can’t Get It Up” (a rap duet with his doctor), and a perversely poignant ballad, “What the Fu... Am I?” (I’m not being coy here. That’s the song title and that’s how Daryl says and sings it.)

In 2036, lifelike female androids are universally available, programmed to serve men’s sexual needs, and people have sensory implants that allow them to share feelings, which mostly means downloading other people’s sex acts into your own nervous system. The Experientertainment industry serves this new mainstream porn culture by providing downloadable “feelies.” The King, a sleazy, soulless human sex machine (charismatic Cirque du Soleil veteran Neezar), dominates the charts until Daryl and a fembot named Ginger record their super-hot sex for a reality TV show called The Feelies.

Turns out that Ginger (luscious, subtle Gili Roskies) was King’s sex doll until he discarded her as defective. To climb back on top and eliminate Ginger and Daryl, King seeks help from his mom (super-plus size funnyman Andy Toth, reprising his drag role from Hairspray), whose diabolical plot, featuring a nasty anal probe, almost works until Ginger leads a revolt of the broken sex dolls (Stephanie Moroz, Georgia Valeria Swinton, Janessa Shea O’Hearn). Robotic girl power and sympathetic cybernetic affection triumph in the end as the company belts out “Plug Me into Your Love.”

The theatrical synergies of this show are really impressive, especially for a small company. Visual effects (including Drew Facey’s costumes) and sound, music, staging, story and performances work together seamlessly. Thompson’s script is very smart. The technologies he imagines seem entirely logical, and his story combines classic musical theatre structure with a sharp awareness of how sex drives popular culture and so much else. His flaunting of naughty words may be excessive and adolescent, but the young audiences our theatre desperately needs are going to love it.

Thompson also directs with aplomb, aided by the talented, versatile cast. I especially liked the terrifically witty faux-video testimonials of viewers on The Feelies. And when King comes out on stilts at the opening of act two, singing his song of triumph while Daryl, strung like a puppet, dances to his tune. Everyone here can dance and sing, including the fine male ensemble (Kazz Leskard, Riun Garner, Dustin Freeland). I wonder, though, why the cast needs head-mikes in a theatre that has only ten rows.

Following on the heels of Victoria’s Ride the Cyclone, bound for New York and bigger things, Broken Sex Doll looks like another west coast Canadian musical sensation.                               

Jerry Wasserman