HACKERLOVE written and directed by Sky Gilbert, with Kawa Ada and Nick Green. Presented by Cabaret Company at Buddies in Bad Times (12 Alexander). Previews Wednesday (April 30), opens Thursday (May 1) and runs to May 11, Wednesday-Saturday 8 pm, Sunday 2:30 pm. $21-$30, Sunday pwyc, preview $20. 416-975-8555. See listing.
We all know that internet dating can have its problems. But when Bradley Manning, an American soldier who had access to classified military documents, met Adrian Lamo online, Manning never guessed where the relationship would go.
A trans woman now legally known as Chelsea, Manning was convicted of leaking those documents, and it was Lamo, a bisexual, who turned her in to U.S. authorities.
Writer/director Sky Gilbert gives the story his own spin in Hackerlove, which offers a kaleidoscopic view of both Manning and Lamo.
"They actually never met in person," says Nick Green, who plays Lamo to Kawa Ada's Manning. "It was Manning who sought out Lamo, and their conversations often had to do with the struggle of determining identity."
Gilbert constructs the play as a series of what-if scenarios, such as what Manning were to say to Lamo were Lamo in his jail cell and what would it be like if the two had sex.
"I see the episodes as a series of meditations, all the different possibilities that could have occurred, maybe did occur or possibly never occurred," says Green, who worked with Gilbert previously in Dancing Queen. "Usually as an actor I pursue a character's objectives and choices. In this case, I get to try out all sorts of objectives and tactics, seeing how one works out and then moving on to another."
At one point Manning and Lamo have an encounter using language based in computer programming talk.
"It's almost like the audience is watching the analogue version of Grindr," laughs Green. "The hackerspeak is turned into flirtation and sexual advances that celebrate the two characters' shared passion for information and computer technology."
In fact, the playwright plays throughout with internet communication and how it affects how people relate to each other.
"Online communication has had an impact on everyone, whether they're relating face-to-face or electronically. In fact, there's a freedom in the play's online scenes that's not part of the more intimate exchanges, a feeling that a internet exchange is heightened in a specific way.
"Some of the literal exchanges are also striking. In one, Manning and Lamo have an intense philosophical debate about the internet and the free flow of information. It becomes a choreographed wrestling scene in which they flip and pin each other to make their points."
And then there's the spy theme; Lamo sees Manning's leaking of information as an espionage action potentially dangerous for American soldiers' lives. The theme gets a theatrical turn, for Manning becomes a version of Mata Hari, specifically Greta Garbo's film portrayal of the spy.
"In the film, Garbo is a spy caught up not only in espionage but also a tragic love affair; Manning can identify with that, especially with Garbo as a picture of femininity, grace and beauty."