Imagine a grimy, depressing factory out of Upton Sinclair, ruled like a police state with a coercive touch of Orwellian doublespeak; now, envision a place where a makeshift pas de deux to Heart’s “Barracuda” could win you a bucket of “old people” candy. The setting of Ex Machina, a brisk 70-minute dystopian lark, is both. In it, bedraggled drone Mason (Danvir Grewal) is pushed by his clueless, idealistic dork of a roommate (Tommy Crawford) and the specter of his sexy ex (Kim Blanck) to revolt against the powers that be, represented by a security guard (Michael Moran). There are fine performances from Grewal, Blanck and Crawford (who seems to have modeled his character after Bruce McCulloch’s juvenile Gavin from Kids in the Hall), and playwright David Jacobi and director Sarah Wansley keep things light in spite of the dark themes. But in splitting the difference between agitprop and heartfelt comedy, the play delivers neither a useful lesson nor an emotional payoff. For all its hard work, the show should earn more.—Matthew Love
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