Reviewed by Bianca Watkins
Croatian comedy The Doll is a production of written playwright Miro Gavran’s work, whose scripts have impressively been translated into 40 languages and performed around the globe. Croatia House Inc brought this particular play to Darlinghurst’s Eternity House, beckoning its own audience with its charming synopsis albeit underwhelming delivery.
After 39-year-old Marko is dumped by his girlfriend, he relieves the weight of loneliness by trialing a new ‘girlfriend doll’; a femme robot designed to meet the entirety of a man’s needs and to acquire his total satisfaction. However, the android was designed by a female, who has realistic expectations when it comes to programming the role of the Doll. It is not long before Marko’s flaws become revealed in a humorous dig at the many failings of the male personality.
With every new breakthrough in technology and artificial intelligence, we hear of crazy new ideas and products. Some of these astound me, with female robots being at the forefront of my bewilderment. The incorporation of this concept is what pricked my attention, and what lead me to wait eagerly in the lobby of the plush and intimate Eternity Theatre. I felt like my expectations were sorely neglected however, and realised that ironically, the futuristic themes within this play were met with very traditional and overdone theatrical elements. The relationship between man and woman was all too painfully familiar; the boyfriend is lazy, ungrateful and unhelpful. He doesn’t appreciate his wonderful girlfriend. She is shrill, talented, productive, a nag but caring, and unconditionally faithful. Of course, these lack of flaws are forgiven by the mechanical construction of her personality, but the dynamic recalls far too many heteronormative representations which are all too commonplace in our society. So, I would praise Gavran for the delivery of the universal here. Despite my disappointment, I appreciate the comment on how despite the growth in technology, human (or man) hasn’t changed much, and there are lessons yet to be learnt.
Comfortable in my seat and the intimate auditorium, I watched as the living room scenes unfolded as a series split up by minute long transition intervals in which the actors would be absent from stage, the lights dimmed and a jazz number played as audio provided to preoccupy the audience. I felt I was watching a decade-old TV sitcom every time the irrelevant music dimmed and Marko and Stella returned to our view with questionably simple costume changes.
The male lead’s delivery of the script was awkward and I felt Stella could have seemed significantly more robot-like. The banter between them was sometimes circular but it was received by laughter from the audience. As the transparent chaos of Marko’s treatment of Stella continues I noticed a woman behind me joke more than once: “a regular day in our household isn’t it?”
The Doll could be enjoyed by many, but perhaps specifically an audience older than 25 would appreciate the comedy more so than I. Though the concept is innovative, the gender politics were painfully outdated, like flogging a dead bird. Perhaps, however, this is part of Gavin’s commentary; is man improving with the same rate as the technology we create? And this is a comment I affectionately support. Overall, this play is obviously not meant to be a political statement, and succeeds as an easy carefree delivery of a few laughs. I can envision my grandmother chuckling in the front row and enjoying the charm of this one-act performance.