“How did it get so late so soon? It's night before it's afternoon.” - Dr. Seuss
by Tyler Mangrum
- The Capitol Hill Times -
As the stigma surrounding online dating has dissipated almost entirely, a reported one in five relationships now begins in front of a computer screen. Even more startling is the fact that one in three marriages will start with online dating. While the ability to browse through potential partners clearly has an appeal, Annex Theatre’s new off-night production, “The Luxuria Cycle,” begs the question that lingers in the back of the minds of many OKCupid users – what happens if society reaches the tipping point when online dating becomes the status quo?
“Our current relationship with technology has it so people don’t look up from their phones, tablets or computers at all,” said Jen Moon, director of “The Luxuria Cycle.” “I took a picture of four people across from me on the bus, and although one was reading a book, everyone was squished together and looking at their phones or iPads. None of them actually interacted with each other. This is why people don’t meet each other or talk to each other at all. The reason why Luxuria could become a thing is that we’re so into our technology; they’ll say, ‘We’ll hook you up with someone compatible,’ and it’s that person you’ve sat next to on the train for three years and never talked to.”
The play, written by Jimmie Galaites, explores the idea of how our growing reliance on technology to find love could lead to a future where love becomes the property of a corporate entity. In three vignettes set a few years apart from one another, “The Luxuria Cycle” demonstrates what could happen when we resign ourselves to let a dating website slowly insert itself into every facet of our romantic interactions, right down to deciding whether or not you’re still in love with your partner.
“It’s in a dystopian not-too-far away future where, basically, social media owned all of your romantic transactions,” Moon said. “This is kind of the Internet world we live in if someone else was running it, and that someone was in it to make money. It’s a multi-national corporation owning love. Not just dating and finding someone, but marriage and divorce.”
The promise that love is 93 percent guaranteed for the low price of $99.95 a year and full managerial control over your love life is surrealist and oddly plausible at the same time. The omnipresent Luxuria mirrors the familiar model of compatibility percentages seen across current dating sites, but with this twist: in order to ensure that the results will be accurate, a team of “advocates” monitor your behavior, going so far as to making you strap on a motion-capture suit.
“Advocates basically watch you,” Moon said. “Their job is to marry what you think about yourself to how you really are. That way, they can find the best compatibility mix and the best match for you. They’re monitoring your heart rate, they’re in a little room watching everything you do and say. But in 12 days, they guarantee that you’ll have a match.”
Despite the fact that the invasive nature of such a process is clearly meant to evoke a certain amount of discomfort, Moon said that one of the stranger aspects of the play is that even with the removal of any degree of privacy, Luxuria would still be a service that many people would clamor towards.
“I don’t know if it’s a criticism so much as an observation,” Moon said. There is a direction that the world is going towards because of technology, and there’s something about Luxuria that’s not dystopian. With Luxuria, at least you’re with someone who you’re compatible with. For some people, this world would probably be pretty cool. People would pay for it. There would be people who say, ‘I’m tired of trying to meet people at the office or on the street.’ So there’s a fine line between this world and the world we currently live in, especially since a lot of people are lonely.”
To add to the theme of an omnipresent social media network, attendees are given “ID7 tag” wristbands by Moon when they enter, and can even choose to pick a Luxuria username that will be displayed with a profile picture on the stage during the show. According to Moon, the slightly more interactive nature of ““The Luxuria Cycle” ” will allow it to be something that is both thought provoking and fun.
“It’s not the type of thing the Annex usually does,” Moon said. “With off-nights, you can experiment a little. Even people who’ve been to an Annex show will have a little more interactive of a show than they’re used to.”
“The Luxuria Cycle” runs on Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 8 p.m. from October 22 to November 13.