Book by Megan Sass; Music and Lyrics by Megan Sass and Nathan Leigh
Directed by Jesse Geiger
Produced by A Collection of Shiny Objects
Part of the 2015 New York International Fringe Festival
Off Off Broadway, Musical
Runs through 8.29.15
VENUE #6: DROM, 85 Avenue A
by Sarah Weber on 8.24.15
Piper Goodeve and Megan Sass in The Mad Scientists Guide. Photo by Crystal Arnette.
BOTTOM LINE: A mad scientist has plans to save humanity, but how far will she go to save her own love life?
If you mix a concoction of nerdy jokes, robotics, and a zombie, you may end up with The Mad Scientist’s Guide to Romance, Robots, and Soul-Crushing Loneliness. And for you nerds out there who may be wondering, yes, there is more to this musical than just Tumblr-worthy nerd-dom references. There are actual science jokes. (Crazy, right? Why can’t The Big Bang Theory still do that?)
This musical follows the misadventures of Emily (Megan Sass), a mad scientist and genius of all things—except her love life. Her life’s work to realize the singularity (the theory that one day all of humanity and machine will coalesce into one consciousness) informs all of her actions. Her boyfriend Chad (Darren Bluestone) breaks up the relationship after Emily tries to perform an invasive experiment on his brain. To be fair, they weren’t right for each other to begin with, but having a chip inserted into your head is understandably frightening. Especially since Emily's best friend Maddy (Piper Goodeve), who has been harboring a secret crush on Emily for years, is now a zombie as a result of one such experiment.
Emily means well, but both her obsession with the singularity and her insurmountable ego have made her oblivious to reality. After Chad leaves, Emily decides the only rational solution is to make a robot boyfriend who looks exactly like Chad but can be programmed to love only her. But because she’s so good at making a sentient robot, Chad 2.0 begins to come to his own conclusions about the world and about who he loves. Will Emily end up alone anyway?
This madcap musical experiment is a delight. The performances are outstanding, especially the comedic and nuanced Goodeve. Whether she’s in the spotlight or mumbling amongst the audience, she plays the perfect scientist’s apprentice. Most of her lines are scripted as mumbling gibberish, but she embodies the character’s state of mind so well that whether you actually understand what she’s saying is beside the point. Further enhancing the cast’s performances is director Jesse Geiger’s intuitive use of the space. I love how Greiger demolished the fourth wall, allowing her actors to roam freely among the audience; the choice works perfectly with the show’s self-aware comedy.
Also, half of a good science fiction show is a great design team. Everything from Lianne Arnold’s video and projections to Barbara Erin Delo’s costumes, John Eckert’s lighting, and Ken Nintzel’s set create a complete and believable universe.
And, of course, the backbone to every successful piece is the book, music, and lyrics. Sass and Nathan Leigh wrote a script that is chock full of comedic and nerdy goodness, but not to the point where the references overwhelm the plot. I may not be in love with every choice—I still can’t decide if Emily actually learned anything from her mistakes, or whether it’s necessary that she does—and some audience members may not catch every single reference, but all in all, The Mad Scientist’s Guide is a fun, engaging musical, no matter how nerdy you are. So, just press pause on your 100th re-watch of Star Trek TNG (the struggle is real, I know) and go see this show.
(The Mad Scientist's Guide to Romance, Robots, and Soul-Crushing Loneliness plays at VENUE #6: DROM, 85 Avenue A, through August 29, 2015. Performances are Sun 8/16 at 8:30; Fri 8/21 at 5; Sun 8/23 at 4; Wed 8/26 at 5:30; and Sat 8/29 at 7. There is no late seating at FringeNYC. Tickets are $18 and are available at fringenyc.org. For more information visit collectshinyobjects.org.)