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In a rather dystopian future and on the verge of menopause, a woman is at a fertility clinic hoping to have her very last egg artificially inseminated. But things aren't going her way.

Theater Review (NYC Off-Off-Broadway): ‘The Singularity’ by Crystal Jackson

In the rather dystopian future of Crystal Jackson’s twisted sci-fi comedy The Singularity, from the Virago Theatre and now at The Flea, scientists have captured but not yet “activated” the universe’s mysterious dark matter, and medical care is rationed by the second.

On the verge of menopause, Astrid (a nervy, focused, and very winning performance by Laura Lundy-Paine) is at a fertility clinic hoping to have her very last egg artificially inseminated. But things aren’t going her way.

Laura Lundy-Paine & Michael Vega in Crystal Jackson's 'The Singularity.'  ​​Photo by Bren Coombs.
Laura Lundy-Paine & Michael Vega in Crystal Jackson’s ‘The Singularity.’
​​Photo by Bren Coombs.

So over her last 30 hours of fertility she alternately seeks and shudders at sperm donations from a cross-dressing nurse, a fellow patient who’s in for a bizarre voluntary amputation, her anti-breeder friend Kyle, and a horny dark-matter scientist who may be on the high-functioning end of the autism spectrum. Ultimately, her donation comes from an unexpected source, with unearthly consequences.

That’s the story. Weird, but easy to lay out. Harder to assess is the play itself – funny, sometimes delightfully campy, but sometimes enervating. I think it’s an issue of character, not of performance. Dan Fagan shows plenty of versatility in four separate roles, but while his Bob (the patient) is entertaining and, in the play’s absurdist context, believable, his Scientist is at first tedious and unconvincing – then later funny and appealing. The two minor roles he plays early on suggest creations of Mel Brooks on a sour day.

Perhaps more fortunate in having only two roles, Michael Vega is thoroughly convincing, in different ways, both as the preposterous nurse and as the supportive, serious Kyle.

Kyle seems to be Astrid’s only true friend, returning to help her out even after they have a falling-out. But at the end, in the pains of labor, Astrid-as-cursed-Eve is alone, howling, doubled over, scared. The scene goes on long enough that when it ends in a blackout we expect another scene to explain or at least suggest how things have (literally) come out. Instead, we’ve come to the discomfitingly abrupt end.

There’s a lot to admire in the production besides the cast. Director Amy Fowkes makes creative use of Mikel Glass’s vivid sets, which extend along the full length of the Flea’s elongated basement theater. It’s not the first time I’ve seen a clever set designer and an astute director adapt adroitly to this room’s severely unconventional layout.

The bar scenes evoke the seedy side of Jackson’s weird future; the stirrup-chair in the clinic is a scary contraption; and the dreamlike wall of dolls in Astrid’s apartment almost takes one’s breath away. Kris Pierce’s ominous, eerily effective sound cues merge fluidly with Duane Pagano’s moody lighting, and costume designer Brooke Jennings’s future fashions look terribly, believably ugly.

Though I left wishing for more tonal consistency and a more satisfying ending, I’m glad I went to see The Singularity. The Virago Theatre production runs through August 15 at The Flea. For tickets visit OvationTix.com or call 866-811-4111.

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About Jon Sobel

Jon Sobel is a Publisher and Executive Editor of Blogcritics as well as lead editor of the Culture & Society section. As a writer he contributes most often to Culture, where he reviews NYC theater; he also covers interesting music releases. Through Oren Hope Marketing and Copywriting at http://www.orenhope.com/ you can hire him to write or edit whatever marketing or journalistic materials your heart desires. Jon also writes the blog Park Odyssey at http://parkodyssey.blogspot.com/ where he visits every park in New York City. And by night he's a part-time working musician: lead singer, songwriter, and bass player for Whisperado, a member of other bands as well, and a sideman.

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