Review: Fixed (Videofag)

fixed photo 2

Fixed is a funny and poignant production about gay culture playing at Toronto’s Videofag

The set is minimalist and futuristic—a strip of LEDs and several bare bulbs hung from the ceiling. They were flickering dimly as I took my seat in the intimate Videofag venue. The space seats only about 20 people, so I felt like one of a select few specially invited guests. This, I discovered, is the perfect lead-in to Fixed.

The year is 2050. The show opens with a charming song and dance number as Gayle, the fictitious inventor of Grindr—the first proximity-based hook-up app for gay men—introduces us to the latest version of the app, which allows users to transmit holographic representations of themselves directly into other users’ homes.

The set-up is a goofy caricature of a tech launch as Gayle describes—cabaret style—the functionality of the new version. We meet the first test user—Jack, a sprightly young man go-go dancing in shiny silver underpants. But when Gayle tries to switch to a new user, the system glitches out, leaving Gayle and Jack trapped in an awkward virtual meeting.

The opening is wildly entertaining, but what follows is remarkably intelligent and emotionally resonant. We discover that Gayle has misplaced the brain of Alan Turing. Um, yeah… Gayle had purchased a jar containing the brain of Alan Turing. It’s now missing and the soul of Alan Turing has somehow found its way into this latest version of the Grindr app.

Alan Turing, a British mathematician who is considered one of the key players in the development of computer science, met a dismal end. Prosecuted for his homosexuality (still illegal in 1950s Britain), he submitted to hormone therapy to forgo a prison sentence and eventually committed suicide at the age of 42. He haunts the play, a tortured soul trapped within a brilliant mind.

Gayle and Jack, trapped in a virtual encounter, find themselves discussing sex and intimacy. The narrative occasionally delves into Alan Turing’s life as the app glitches into his consciousness. Through Gayle and Jack, the ghost of Turing reminisces his own moments of intimacy.

Despite my irritation with the constant overuse of the term Meta, it perfectly describes the dynamic of this production. Turing’s ghost is using Gayle and Jack as a flesh and blood app to communicate his yearning and heartbreak. On another level, we are aware that, even though Gayle and Jack are flesh and blood there in front of us, they are only holographic representations of real people.

Zack Russell’s insightful script examines ideas of intimacy and technology, pleasure and pain, the mind and the body. His direction is simple and evocative. The sterile white of the set is the perfect forum for the warm and vibrant presence of the two performers. The aesthetic of the production, while deceptively simple, captures the complexity of the play’s thematic concerns—a blending of the organic and artificial.

Kayla Lorette is amazing as Gayle, the aging inventor. Her presence is, at first, campy; there is an over the top, aiming to please, drag queen quality to her opening song and dance routine. But as she connects to Jack, we discover Gayle’s vulnerability and she becomes quite complex.

Matt O’Connor portrays Jack with a youthful energy and optimism that perfectly contrasts Gayle’s world-weariness. He has a wide-eyed enthusiasm that is both silly and touching.

Together, they are a captivating portrait of complimentary contrasts—age and youth, experience and naiveté. Their story captures our essential human need for connection and the myriad ways we try to achieve it.

After the show, I found myself contemplating my own struggles with intimacy and the virtual wrench that cyberspace has thrown into the works. Our technologies are an extension of us and our relationship to them is fraught with the same hopes and fears.

Fixed is stunning! It is playing only until this Sunday, so head on out to Kensington Market and treat yourself to this smart, funny and poignant show.

Details:

  • Fixed is playing until October 13 at Videofag (187 Augusta Ave.)
  • Shows run Wednesday to Sunday at 8pm
  • Tickets are $10 (There is limited seating, so advance reservation is recommended.)
  • Tickets can be purchased online

Photo of Kayla Lorette and Matt O’Connor by Zack Russell