Writer and Director: Ian Dixon Potter
The pandemic love story is a genre that will probably be with us for some time; couples forced together or separated by lockdown, strangers who can only meet online and Sliding Doors scenarios that explore what might have been. With Bubble, James Graham explored a combination of these factors back in October and now Ian Dixon Potter expands his Golden Age Theatre series with Love in the Time of Corona, a monologue about a decisive Zoom relationship.
Jake is a soulless lothario, his only aim in life to bed as many women as possible in a week and then go back for more. He isn’t interested in who they are or their opinions, he just wants the conquest. That is until he meets Lauren in lockdown and, unable to meet her in person, they regularly chat late into the night, forcing Jake to face a few home truths as well as a new kind of future.
Dixon Potter’s latest protagonist is a tough character to like and for much of Love in the Time of Corona’s 35-minutes his perspective is hard to sympathise with. This is a deliberate choice from the writer in order to dangle the possibility of a semi-redemptive arc in the show’s closing minutes as well as charting a degree of personal growth as a result of the conversations with the unseen Lauren.
Yet, aspects of Jake’s personality are so vile the viewer is almost waiting for him to fall down instead of fall in love and, while Lauren reputedly confronts and questions some of his behaviours, it is not enough to make you root for a Damascene conversion. In fact, with an entrenched sexism, a touch of misogyny, homophobia and a fatal lack of empathy filling his, entirely disrespectful, conversational style you may wish you had Lauren’s Zoom details so you could warn her to run a mile from this guy.
And while this scenario is very modern, dealing with the impacts of dating apps, video calling platforms and lockdowns, the language given to a character presumably in his 20s is curiously coy, even old-fashioned at times – at one point he complains that women at a boys’ meet-up would ‘cramp our style’. Likewise, if Jake was as obsessed with sex as portrayed and as arrogant about the success of his persistent techniques, then it seems unlikely that he would use terms like ‘consummate’ and ‘anatomy’ rather than something far cruder or more colloquial.
All credit to Ivan Comissio who makes Jake disgustingly watchable espousing blanket views on male and female behaviour while leering into the camera, thrilled with himself as a seducer. Over the course of the monologue the tone does change as the experience of seeing Lauren starts to shift Jake’s sense of certainty which Comissio captures and, while the text suggests a brighter future for Jake, Comissio’s performance never quite relinquishes that darker side to Jake where deeply held views still lurk behind what could be a momentary period of self-reflection.
Love in the Time of Corona has a lead that might make your flesh crawl but Dixon Potter uses the one-sided perspective in this scenario to suggest some character development even if he remains entirely focused on himself. The purpose is less clear however and the monologue is saying far more about the hopelessness of toxic masculinity than how the impact of the pandemic might shift these indefensible attitudes.