My Date with Death – A Musical Romance
Attempted suicide, domestic abuse, free will, and simulation theory are not what you’d expect to see discussed in a spirited two-person musical. But in My Date with Death, the newest show by Zoo Theatre Co., these issues and more are brought to the forefront in a charming and sweet production about the importance of life.
Link, haunted by a family history steeped in abuse, has said his goodbyes to his absent friends and family, and is going to end his life. Full of liquid courage, he adds a handful of pills to his next drink, ready to take that final leap. Although Link is done with the universe, the universe is not yet done with him. Lady Death, a soul collector/reaper, comes to make a trade with Link before his life energy is extinguished for good. What transpires in the endearing 90-minute musical is a meaningful discussion about life, death, philosophy, religion, suicide, abuse, and – above all – love and hope.
My Date with Death ambitiously tackles grandiose subject matter by basing the plot around philosopher Nick Bostrom’s simulation theory. A heady theory to understand on its own, it’s even more difficult when presented in complicated rapid-fire lyrics. The dialogue between the characters help clarify to an extent, but audience members might appreciate a slightly more broad, or basic, explanation. However, kudos to Daniel Sugimoto (writer, composer, lyricist) for incorporating such a current, complex sci-fi concept.
Since the entirety of My Date with Death takes place in a bar, a changing video backdrop and varied lighting add nice visual stimuli to the static location. We soar through the stars and clouds or into the tiniest corners of a computer zapping with electricity as the actors sing about the bigger picture. It’s a great effect and adds to the production, but it also lends itself to some technical glitches, of which there were several during the show I attended. The professionalism of the actors was apparent when they adapted to the frozen video they were supposed to reference.
The last third of the show feels a little rough, especially with such a strong beginning. I left slightly confused as to what exactly happened, especially since the ideas discussed were so esoteric and the characters attempted to do something outside of the norm within that world. Additionally, the inclusion of three reprises didn’t bring any new musicality to the finale. Even though the ending might be up to interpretation, the overall message of optimism remains quite clear.
Despite the aforementioned concerns, the show is really an enjoyable experience, in large part due to the actors’ vocal talents and delightful chemistry. Both Link (Sugimoto) and Lady Death (Samantha M. Lawrence) are relatable in their struggles with life and desire for something better, or at least different. Sugimoto brings a charm and dark wit to his drunkenness (which is not easy to play realistically), and Lawrence is elegant and poised (and wonderfully dressed), even while singing about her tragic previous life on Earth. Both actors are instantly likable and extraordinarily talented. Their singing blew me away; both would be quite at home on Broadway. Director Julia Lisa helps bring out a vulnerability within the actors during their more emotional songs, as well as a lightheartedness during their energetic discussions and ultimate romantic flirtations. The power of this show relies on the strength of its actors, and Sugimoto and Lawrence definitely rise to the challenge.
My Date with Death is a cute and whimsical take on dense philosophical material. While promoting frank discussions about mental health, life and death, the show is ultimately about love and human connection. Simulation or not, the world we live in is beautiful and we should enjoy every moment we have in it.
A testament to their commitment to inspiring and informing through theater, Zoo Theatre Co. is donating $1 from each ticket sold online to the Trevor Project.