Once in a while a reviewer is lucky enough to review a pre-production of a new show, and then review it again when it produced for the public. I have been privileged to watch the incarnation of GENESIS 37, which also happens to be the first show from the young Genome Theatre Company.
The first production of this stayed in my mind for weeks, and this revised production is even richer. I’ll be thinking about this for a long time — and that is genius.
This is a company to watch. They are bold and innovative, and truly not afraid to take a concept and run it all the way out, even to very dark places. In “GENESIS 37,” they have taken on the very concept of what it means to be human through the lens of patriarchy, misogyny, and unfettered capitalism. It’s deeply cynical and asking us, is this really what we want as a species? Really?!
“GENESIS 37” was accepted to be part of the Talos IV, “the original sci-fi theatre festival of London, the UK, and Europe.” This year, it is taking place during the first full week of November in London and is headquartered at The Cockpit theatre.
The basic story remained the same. A worldwide pandemic, set in the 2030s, has resulted in billions dying and over 70 percent of them are women. The very survival of the human species is as stake. So a company, W.A.N.D., has thrown all its resources into developing something that will prevent that from happening. They couldn’t develop a cure, but they created an alternative method of producing viable human females using an artificial uterus that cuts the gestation time from nine months to mere weeks. But there’s a catch. This is cloning and there is a correspondingly large price tag for cloning your loved one from a base model “as was” in real life and those with “improvements.” What seems to be one solution to a global crisis becomes something else, something that feels unspeakable. Maybe.
Amalia Paschalidi and Avgi Pourgoura are the co-founders of the Genome Theatre Company and play the clones Nikki and Alpeda, respectively. With the changes to the script, the story went darker and more confrontational, and the women had even more scope to work with. This placed an intriguing emphasis on their very existence as human “products” and a devastating ethical conundrum. This time around, both had more agency in their reactions which added to the growing sense of dread.
Renee Eskildsen as Dr. Kirsten Hansen, the founder of W.A.N.D., and her chief scientist, Dr. Michael Monaghan (Marlow Stainfield), were phenomenal. Monaghan’s conflicted reaction to the project was a nice counterpoint to Eskildsen’s very cool and calculated “pitch” to us, the audience, as the vetted potential buyers of this service. This involuntary involvement gave an immediacy to the questions raised.
The changes to the script (and I can’t tell any more without spoilers) add more depth without diluting the increasing tension. This is unfettered capitalism taken to a cruel max, but the script seduces rather than pontificates. The genius is that, as an audience member, you have a moral decision to contemplate. It opens the channel for interesting dialogues on a number of big issues facing all of us.
For this show, Eskildsen and Stainfield performed on the Cockpit stage while Paschalidi and Pourgoura are remote in Croyden. Since the clones are being kept in their “rooms” in the “lab,” this was an effective way to produce the work during a pandemic. The audience was quite socially distanced in the Cockpit and the show was sold out. This was a nicely polished production given the two locations.
Matt Owen was the technical director for GENESIS 37, and kept the action taut and moving briskly. Ewa Limanowka was the movement director. Other members of the team include Anna Maria Pounna as a writer and Lauren Baulch as a graphics content creator.
I look forward very much to seeing what this company does in the future. They are creating realities that are literate and adaptable. The first production of this stayed in my mind for weeks, and this revised production is even richer. I’ll be thinking about this for a long time — and that is genius.
Running Time: Approximately 55 minutes without intermission.
For more information on “GENESIS 37” and the Genome Theatre Company, please click here.