Primal Forces artistic director Keith Garsson is fond of theater that provokes. Stirring thought, engagement, empathy, even revulsion, Garsson picks plays that get a rise out of his audiences.
Back in action after parting ways with the Arts Garage in Delray Beach, Garsson is kicking off a four-show Fort Lauderdale season with “The Good Girl” at Andrews Living Arts (the other three productions will be at nearby Empire Stage).
The hour-long piece by Australian playwright Emilie Collyer imagines a dystopian future – a popular artistic choice since the 2016 election – in which, following a pandemic, humans have turned to specially designed robots to meet their sexual needs.
The unseen but verbally expressive robot has a madam-minder, Anjali (Amber Lynn Benson), and an on-call maintenance guy, Ven (Jovon Jacobs). The two are in government-sanctioned jobs, following protocol. But their humanity and natural longing keep getting in the way.
Anjali bakes for stress relief. Ven digs swiping his finger around her metal mixing bowl and tasting the chocolate batter. He’s not into robots, sexually speaking, and the striking Anjali, whose metallic blue dress matches her lipstick, turns him on.
The two stray from accepted behavior, both with the robot and each other. At one point, standing on either side of the stage, they have a sexual encounter without coming anywhere near each other. And when Ven learns that the ‘bot, dubbed “The Good Girl,” learns from Anjali’s behavior and expresses feelings that get clients to pay more for her services, the two hatch a lucrative but deeply disturbing scheme involving rape.
See? The play, described as “a dark comedy,” is thought-provoking and revolting.
Oh, the production itself is decent. Director Garsson gets a feisty performance from Benson and has Jacobs convey eroticism along with a dangerous edge. Natalie Tavares’ futuristic set, with an eerie lighting design by Robert D. Nation, costumes by Alberto Arroyo and superb sound by David Hart, enmesh theatergoers in Anjali and Ven’s futuristic world.
It’s the script that could use maintenance and an upgrade. Though brevity is a trend in theater as our attention spans grow ever shorter, “The Good Girl” doesn’t just raise more questions than it answers. Collyer’s tale is dramaturgically messy and ultimately unsatisfying. The content is provocative, but the play lacks clarity. Playwrights don’t get bonus points for confusing the audience.
“The Good Girl” is a Primal Forces production running through Oct. 29 at Andrews Living Arts, 25 NW Fifth St., Fort Lauderdale. Show times are 8 p.m. Thursday-Friday, 7 and 9 p.m. Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday. Tickets cost $30. To order, go to www.primalforces.com.