In the 21st century, love sometimes seems to be as much about science as it is about soulmates. Between online dating and Facebook relationship statuses, romance has been completely digitized. Much of these modern quirks are examined in The Magical Marriage Computer and Other Plays, but for the most part, the production seems as robotic as its titular character.
The six scenes concern various couples struggling with contemporary problems, from roommate hookups to losing one’s virginity. Though some stick to reality, others use imaginary, sci-fi elements like a compatibility machine or a formula for love. Some of these are cute, but other sketches are outrageously silly – the final scene is a soap opera-like drama involving Johnny Depp having a threesome with an underage girl, circa 1993. None, however, make too much of an impression, as punctuated as they are with kitschy dialogue.
The acting isn’t particularly exciting, either – overly showy even in more realistic scenes. Despite the play being centered on love, a genuine connection between romantically linked characters was almost altogether missing. The performance came off as almost immature, too emotional without much range.
There were a few exceptions. In “Moon Damage,” Jim Epstein’s performance was consistently natural. In contrast to the others, his voice was soothing rather than shrill, and Epstein didn’t seem restless when moving around the stage.
Musicians Blythe Crawford and Willie Gammell of The Galt Line were fantastic, performing with a high energy and peppy melodies that were the highlight of the performance. Their featured piece, “Annie, Who Deduced Her Soulmate,” was one of the most pleasant, due to Crawford’s animated narration joined by Maria Rizkalla’s pretty soprano. This sketch was both fun and energetic, unlike some others, which failed to garner many laughs due to so-so comic delivery.
Praise goes to those who designed and built the eponymous marriage computer and the other props used in the scene, which were fairly creative and enhanced the storyline. From dangling carrots to a box made to accommodate several human occupants, these were simple but effective.
On the whole, it’s not that The Magical Marriage Computer and Other Plays was necessarily bad. It’s just that the production was stale, not nearly as exciting as some of the innovative offerings at Fringe. For a show that features 21st century technology, this comedy doesn’t do much to capture the modern audience member’s attention.
The Magical Marriage Computer and Other Plays has 3 more performances at The Shop – Fort Fringe, 609 New York Ave NW, Washington, DC.