By Crystal Jackson; Directed by Amy Fowkes
Produced by Virago Theatre Company
Off Off Broadway, New Play
Runs Through 8.15.15
The Flea Theater, 41 White Street
by Sarah Moore on 8.2.15
Laura Lundy-Paine in The Singularity. Photo by Samantha Bednarz.
BOTTOM LINE: An enjoyable satire about female healthcare set in a dystopian future.
Imagine a dystopian near-future, where your health insurance can be revoked without any warning, forcing you to rely on underground doctors’ offices with names like “Dr. Jim’s Health and Stuff.” This is the world of Crystal Jackson’s play, The Singularity.
The premise is that 40-year-old, single, Astrid (a believable Laura Lundy-Paine) has decided she wants a baby and she is on her literal last egg. She is in the doctor’s chair, about to receive her fertility treatment (from the sperm of a criminal), when her insurance pulls the plug. No insurance, no treatment. She has 30 hours left until she loses her egg? What next?
The nurse (Michael Vega) tells her about his night job at the sketchy Dr. Jim’s. She can get a fertility treatment there, no problem. Of course, nothing is so easy. In the waiting room of Dr. Jim’s, Astrid meets Bob (Dan Fagan, excellent in a variety of roles), who is at Dr. Jim’s because he can’t stand to look at his right arm any longer. Bob offers to impregnate her. This repulses her, as does the revelation that all of the sperm at Dr. Jim’s comes from the aforementioned creepy nurse.
Astrid flees Dr. Jim’s to a nearby dive bar, where she meets an unnamed scientist (Dan Fagan) again, who works with dark matter in his lab. She finds him acceptable enough, and follows him back to his apartment, hoping to seal the deal. (Who can blame her? He’s a scientist!) Unfortunately, things don’t work out with the scientist the way she plans, and the story takes a more sci-fi turn.
Lundy-Paine creates a sympathetic and appropriately distraught character in her Astrid, and she is well matched by the committed performances of Dan Fagan and Michael Vega. However, we don’t learn very much about Astrid as a person; the male characters are much more fleshed out than the supposed heroine of the play.
The design work by Mikel Glass (scenic and props), Duane Pagano (lighting), Kris Pierce (sound) and Brooke Jennings (costume design) creates an authentically off-kilter and unpleasant futuristic environment. The design is uniformly dark and grimy, giving the appropriate dilapidated feel. Director Amy Fowkes not only keeps the play moving, she uses the conventional basement space very efficiently, and directs each of the actors to their strengths.
I was thoroughly engaged by the first half of the play, with the criticism of healthcare and exploration of what it’s like to be a single woman reaching the end of her fertility, but I found the tonal switch to sci-fi to be jarring, and the ending unsatisfying. No explanation or justification is given for Astrid’s actions in the final third of the play. In addition, the scenes with the scientist feel disproportionately long, compared to her interactions with the other men.
Overall, The Singularity is an intriguing and worthy concept to explore, but the play just ends, rather than giving us any idea of how the plot is wrapped up.
(The Singularity plays in the downstairs space at The Flea Theater, 41 White Street, through August 15, 2015. Performances are Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays at 9 and Saturdays at 1 and 9. Tickets are $15-$30 and are available through OvationTix or by calling 212-352- 3101)