Love Bomb is a situational drama turned mystery set to rock music. The musical begins when harried mother, Lillian (Deb Pickman), interrupts the sound check for rising indie music star, Justine (Sara Vickruck). The obnoxious interaction between singer and unlikely fan quickly turns dark when Lillian accuses Justine of plagiarizing lyrics written by Lillian’s missing daughter. After Lillian threatens to out Justine as a fraud, Justine admits to having taken the lyrics from a diary she found in the back of an ex-boyfriend’s car. To solve the mystery of her daughter’s disappearance, Lillian demands that Justine play her all the songs. Lillian hopes the poetry will reveal what happened to her daughter.
The strongest aspect of the play was the revelation of clues through the songs themselves. This distinctive take on musical theater kept the audience engaged in solving the mystery. However, the information given in the music becomes redundant when we learn that Justine had been in contact with the missing daughter, and knew exactly what had happened to her all along. The character’s motivations are unclear. Lillian seems vindictive towards Justine, rather than elated to have found evidence regarding her daughter’s disappearance. In the same vein, it seems absurd that Justine would be so dedicated to obstructing Lillian’s search.
The central themes of Love Bomb are embedded in the mystery of the daughter’s disappearance. Without revealing the plot, it can be said that the play deals with the issue at hand too lightly. Both Justine and Lillian come across as tried-and-true tropes; their experiences of the situation seem limited and their conversations about the topic lack complexity.
Though the creators of the play worked hard to bring to light a problem that is indeed difficult to acknowledge, their handling of the issue is awkward and uninformed. The actresses didn’t seem to grasp the gravity of the trauma they were discussing and it was sometimes difficult to believe that Vickruck’s Justine had actually been through the experiences she discusses. Demeaning jabs at the lives of sex workers and a comment about Justine’s sexuality (based on her appearance) degrade the feminism of the play.
Love Bomb should be viewed through a critical lens. At the very least, it incites curiosity, and in some way achieves its goal of raising awareness; viewers will leave the performance thirsty for the information and perspective that Love Bomb did not give them.
Love Bomb is produced by Shameless Hussy Productions and runs until October 10 at The Firehall Arts Centre.