All in the Genes

Perfect, a new play written and directed by Tanya Klein, is billed as "a 21st-century farce," but it is largely missing the humor and fast-paced plot normally associated with farce. The play presents a dystopian future where genetically modified humans have an upper hand over the so-called "normals": they attend elite institutions, win grants and awards, and earn higher incomes. In short, they are "perfect." But in the case of Sarah (Laurie Ann Orr), there appears to be a glitch in the genetic coding. Her mother, Mary (Ali Baynes), has noticed that she has received her first two B's on assignments, even though she's been accepted at Harvard. Sarah's interest in tutoring a "normal" named Jack (Karen Green) deeply troubles Mary as well. On top of that, Mary's niece, Jean (Natasha Graf), another genetically engineered whiz kid, is visiting and might notice the change in Sarah.

Little does Mary know that Jean is having her own problems with a new gene therapy that supposedly re-establishes the drive to succeed. And Sarah's secret lover, a "normal" named Charlie (Mateo Moreno), wants to free her from the endless task of being the best. Meanwhile, Mary attempts to lure a gene therapy doctor (Michael Jalbert) into giving Sarah a potentially dangerous treatment to make her strive even harder.

Normally in a farce, an unlikely situation changes quickly and often, becoming ever more wacky and unpredictable. The problem with Perfect is that very little happens. The "obstacle" facing Sarah is continually the same one: her gene therapy prevents her from doing what she really wants, which is to become a rock 'n' roll star. The stasis that this creates makes the production flaccid and slow instead of fast-moving and unexpected, as a farce should be.

There are a few good moments. As Mary tries to convince the doctor to give Sarah the gene therapy, the increasingly depraved sexual antics she resorts to are funny. Baynes's performance as Mary points toward an overtly ridiculous direction that the production should have engaged in more.

Predictably, the play ends with a kind of didactic moral, a lesson Sarah gives her mother about how we are all "really human"—"normals" and genetically altered alike. It seems safe to say that what this production needs is another set of eyes.

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