Reviewed in this essay: LoveSexMoney, from Theatre Brouhaha. Written and directed by Kat Sandler. Until January 15th at Factory Theatre, 125 Bathurst Street, Toronto. Part of The Toronto Fringe’s NextStage Festival. 416-966-1062 or www.fringetix.ca.
If hotel rooms could talk, what stories would they tell? And would you really want to know what they have to say? Imagine the insights they’d offer on housekeeping sanitary standards (think low), or the gory-but-steamy details they’d reveal about daylight trysts (Harlequin couldn’t dream such stuff up!).
But anthropomorphical gossip is hardly necessary when, as always, reality proves stranger than fiction, and infinitely easier to disseminate in this information age. Remember the 2008 viral news story of a 22-year-old American women’s study major, who sold her virginity online to the highest bidder? It’s this transaction that Canadian playwright Kat Sandler delves into in her self-written and directed play LoveSexMoney.
The precocious Olivia is as fiery as the honeyed locks, neatly pinned into a schoolgirl coif, that betray her 22 years (as does her seemingly sage sass). She twirls around a classy hotel room in a chaste frock as the play opens, when a knock on the door interrupts her girlish pattering—this a business exchange, remember, and the buyer is here to collect. In walks Simon, a socially awkward criminal lawyer who’s purchased Olivia’s virginity online, complete with a rigorously outlined contract.
Their forced and grating exchange, as Simon’s attempts at small talk are shirked by Olivia, who insists on waxing stoically about her ability to detach from the transaction of her virginity for a handsome sum of money, is eerily endearing. Scott Clarkson assumes a paternal role to Gwenlyn Cumyn’s bubbly yet sophisticated Olivia, and through probing lawyer-speak Simon deduces that Olivia is more sentimental than she leads on: she reveals that he wasn’t the highest bidder but “seemed nice” in his letter.
In the 90-minute run, Sandler, who penned the 2009 Fringe Festival hit Dirty Girls, traces with scathing wit the consequences of Olivia’s modern-day capitalist venture—that is, the selling of her virginity online—for the actual, real-life humans around her. Charging into the hotel room with everything but a white horse, Olivia’s boyfriend Jim (Daniel Pagett) tries to stop her from going through with the act, attempting to humanize her to Simon with grandiose proclamations that Olivia is the perennial girl from great American literature whom you’re happy just to love. Simon, the ubiquitous customer, just wants what he paid for.
Subsequent visits to the same storied hotel room—which Simon points out is not a cliché Motel 6—see a damaged Jim return with a life-size sexbot created in the likeness of his Olivia, longing to rekindle their romance-that-likely-never-was with technology. Through gestures like this, Sandler vividly questions whether intimacy in the digital age can be packaged and sold online, like identities or used cars. Strategically designed inanimate objects for the bedroom, in place of a warm, comforting body, are a steady theme in this play.
First premiered last February at Factory Studio Theatre, LoveSexMoney poignantly weighs the wages of notoriety against the value of real, meaningful interactions, revealing what happens when chat rooms move into the bedroom—or hotel room.