2007_06_arts_john.jpg3 Legged Dog is rightly respected for their adventurous experiments with cutting-edge technology (video, light, sound) in live theater. Last season’s The Curse of the Mystic Renaldo The was a blast; Losing Something tested the potential of a new holographic technology called Eyeliner but was hindered by an inert script. Of course that’s the nature of experiments; you risk regrettable results. And there is unfortunately a lot to regret in Doppelganger, the vexing new production at 3LD (though not created by the 3LD team).

Intended as a mixed-media meditation on grief, identity and post-traumatic stress disorder, Doppelganger drearily examines the lives of two co-workers, George (Jermaine Chambers) and Marcia (Heather Carmichael), in the wake of a third co-worker’s tragically stupid death. Frank (Matt Hanley) kicks the bucket one day when, in an attempt to school George about “fear being the enemy of success”, he leaps against the shatter-proof glass in the conference room, thereby succeeding in dislodging the window from the frame and plummeting to his doom. An inhumanely cold doctor (Metha Brown) is assigned to help George and Martha – who was more than Frank’s co-worker – talk it out; what follows is a double dose of shrill ranting about “reality” and “death”.

The press release for Doppelganger trumpets the production’s “cutting edge digital and physical technology” but the many different sized screens littering the stage are wasted on projections that add zip to nada – a lot of pie charts, slogans, bland video of street activity and extreme close-ups on actors faces. The set is said to be “an autonomous interactive landscape embedded with pressure, light and vibration sensitive sensors that trigger video and sound cues based on the actor's interaction with the physical set itself.” It sounds high-concept but the effects, save for some repetitive slamming of filing cabinet doors, are indiscernible; and even if they were, I don’t see how or why it would add to the piece.

A distressing lack of style envelops the sterile production like a plastic cover on an ugly couch; the lighting forsakes the competent actors in dim shadows that are neither moody or mysterious, just muddy. And the overwrought dialogue is severely handicapped by the terrible acoustics in 3LD’s third, forlorn theater. But despite all that, the real culprit here is the heavy-handed play itself, which drags the hapless performers and audience in circles. That said, I respect any theater company with the guts to tackle such heavy material in a non-naturalistic way. Though difficult to sit through, it’s still worth more than most of the “As Seen On TV” pabulum excreted uptown on any given night.

Doppelganger continues at 3LD through July 21st. Tickets cost $25.