Less than two years ago, on June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court voted in favor of same-sex marriage. “Equal Dignity” read the headline in The New York Times. But at the bottom of the page, there was a much smaller, more ominous headline: “Historic Day for Gay Rights, but a Twinge of Loss for Gay Culture.” What does happen when a subculture gets to assimilate in the ways that it demands? And what might happen if that subculture, flaws and all, was put in charge?
These are the questions being asked in Alexandro Segade’s science-fiction play Future St., which is being staged for two nights only, June 1 and 2, at the Broad. Taking on the mode of dystopic blockbusters such as Blade Runner and named after an alley in L.A.'s Cypress Park neighborhood, Future St. follows its protagonist, Sonny (played by Segade), who is sent to the boys-only gay state of “Clonifornia” in the year 2093 after being bullied in school. Having extricated sex from reproduction, the men of Clonifornia reproduce through — you guessed it — cloning. But as much as Clonifornia is a haven, it’s also a textbook fascist state: a gay marriage–centric environment ruled by an unseen Governador where women can appear only as holograms. “What would happen if a utopia was created that mirrored my desires on paper?” Segade says. “Part of the whole process was realizing that that utopia would suck.”
In Clonifornia, men get permits for sex holidays and extramarital affairs, mirroring the increased structure around hookups offered by sex apps like Scruff and Grindr. The state’s enemies include factions such as the Gynarchists and the Mothers Brigade, a crew of imprisoned, telepathic moms enraged both by their incarceration and their sons' gay lifestyles. “We blame ourselves!” the members of the Mothers Brigade chant from prison. It’s these parts of the production that recall Neal Stephenson’s novel Snow Crash, a cyberpunk satire concerning a pizza boy who’ll be murdered if he makes late deliveries in a plutocratic future. Like Stephenson, Segade doesn’t fully believe the future he’s creating is possible but uses it as a site for exploration of the present. There are also nods to superhero comics: A clone mutated by STD vaccinations has the power to psychically control men if their semen is still in his belly after fellatio.
Several elements of the play, performed in some form or another as far back as 2010, have already proven prophetic. The propaganda-spewing boy band members are clad in gray one-pieces that veer into RompHIM territory. The media-propagated death of a state enforcer at the hands of separatist gallery protesters occurs in Boyle Heights, the current focal point of L.A.’s gentrification woes. The twist is that the clone enforcer (played by gender-liminal writer C. Bain) didn’t die at all but defected to separatism and transitioned into womanhood, a serious crime in the monotonously male state of Clonifornia.
Future St. shares the Broad with “Oracle,” the museum's latest exhibition crafted entirely from Eli and Edythe Broad’s notorious billion-dollar art collection. The focus of “Oracle” is systemic anxiety, and it pairs well with Future St. Grids appear visually in almost all the hanging work (by artists including El Anatsui and Tauba Auerbach) and also conceptually in the rigid surveillance state of Future St.’s Clonifornia, a world where gays get tickets for wearing off-brand outfits.
Making fun of gay culture en masse could come off as cruel in a political climate that seems averse to basic LGBT rights, but what saves Future St. is that underneath the apocalypse dialogue and strobing lights it’s still a little goofy. Visuals seem as if they've been ripped straight from an original Sony PlayStation game; Segade says the performance is less like acting and more like live-action roleplay. “It’s almost like it’s enjoying the scriptedness of its story,” says the program’s curator, Jennifer Doyle. “I can’t quite call it theater. Part of me wonders if it would ever be possible to manifest this over the course of a weekend six- to eight-hour sessions.” It’s through this “larping” style that Future St. can feel driven by the sheer joy of sci-fi fandom. And while its script considers the horrors of gay monotony, it also grants time for catsuits and throwing stars. Like all great blockbusters, Future St. knows how to be fun.
Future St., The Broad, 221 S. Grand Ave., downtown; Thu.-Fri., June 1-2, 8:30 p.m.; $25. thebroad.org.