BWW Review: THE DOUBLE at The Blue Room
Bow & Dagger's tale of a sci-fi identity crisis The Double proves that The Blue Room is where the zeitgeist lives. Writer/director Clare Testoni and her team of intrepid collaborators take us into their fears for our future as they tell the story of a woman who sells her likeness to a tech company for monetary gain and the promise of a career in film.
Victoria is a young actor with big dreams whose agent presents her with the opportunity to audition at a tech company called Gamle to become the face and body of their new virtual assistant/chatbot, Vici (as in "Veni, vidi, vici"). She's hired and lured into Gamle by the idea of making lots of money and using it as a stepping stone into a bigger acting career, or even into a career as a filmmaker.
Once inside the compound, Victoria does her best to adjust to the tedious life of recording sound bites and body movements each day, and sharing personal stories to help give Vici more realness. The only contact she has with people outside the Gamle compound is through video chats, which are projected on the the back wall for us to watch as well.
Three very different actors perform the role of Victoria: initially Phoebe Sullivan, then Amanda Watson, and finally Michelle Aitken. These three women also play the other people in Victoria's world: her mother, her agent, the Gamle programmer, her boyfriend. They perform into cameras while their faces are overlaid with other actors' faces using a chat filter. The face filters are a clever, simple device that delivers many of the show's aims with a single stroke.
This face filter tech speaks to the problems of identity theft, deepfakes, fake news, and catfishing. It throws into question the reality of images we see around us in the news, on our social media feeds; even if the face filters used in the show are easily identified as such now, it's not entirely inconceivable that in the next 10 years, we won't be able to tell the difference with the naked eye.
This Faust for modern times is a cautionary tale, but instead of the protagonist forsaking the divine for all earthly knowledge and power, Victoria forsakes real life for artificial life. She's contained, confined, trapped, both in her Gamle apartment and by her contract with the company.
Although there are so many timely, pressing ideas contained in the script, there are a couple of things stopping The Double's impact from fully landing. If the dramatic action were shifted just a bit further down the narrative timeline so that we reach the inevitable loss of identity during the rising action rather than at the end, there might have been a chance for more dramatic conflict.
Rather than giving so much exposition and exploring so many different aspects of the moral dilemma at hand, the dramatic arc would have been better served by a more direct, focussed route to the crux of the show. This would have offered a chance for the protagonist to search for a way out, or perhaps have a paradigm shift.
That aside, Testoni and her savvy team, also including lighting designer Rhiannon Petersen and sound designer Joe Lui, have built a virtual world that will give those of us still living in the 'real' world pause.