UNCANNY VALLEY by Thomas Gibbons reviewed in The New York Times

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Excerpt: ‘Uncanny Valley’

 

Excerpt: ‘Uncanny Valley’

Alex Podulke and Barbara Kingsley in “Uncanny Valley,” by Thomas Gibbons, at 59E59 Theaters. (Courtesy of the Contemporary American Theater Festival.)

Video by Mimi d’Autremont on Publish Date October 19, 2014.

 

He who dies with the most toys wins, or so they say. But what’s the point of having all those playthings if death is going to rip you from them anyway?

In Thomas Gibbons’s futuristic two-hander “Uncanny Valley,” presented by the Contemporary American Theater Festival at 59E59 Theaters, a very wealthy man named Julian hasn’t quite found immortality, but he has bought a means to forestall his demise for at least a couple of centuries.

With pancreatic cancer about to kill him, Julian plans to download the contents of his mind into an artificial human that carries his DNA and looks just as he did at 34, more than half a lifetime ago. The machine will assume his identity and his existence.

“I haven’t had enough,” Julian tells Claire, a neuroscientist who has spent her career working on artificial consciousness. “This world, this life! I can’t even imagine having my fill.”

The simulated Julian (Alex Podulke) is at first little more than a talking head in Claire’s office. Soon he gets a torso, then one arm and another, eventually an entire body. Schooling him, before the download, in the ways of our “skittish species,” Claire (Barbara Kingsley) explains the phenomenon of the uncanny valley: People get creeped out when something — such as the android Bina48, which inspired this play — looks almost, but not quite, human.

Photo

“Uncanny Valley,” with Alex Podulke as an android, and Barbara Kingsley as a scientist who grooms him. Credit Seth Freeman

Mr. Podulke’s alert, sympathetic performance never elicits that shuddery sensation. Instead, he makes Julian a recognizable Mitt Romney type — even in the stiff, mechanical manner Julian has early on. Post-download, endowed with an oligarch’s smooth, entitled confidence, he retains a faint androidal echo in his speech and seems just disconnected enough from the concerns of ordinary humans.

The notion of human consciousness transplanted into machines is in the air right now. In Brooklyn, a different play called “The Uncanny Valley” features two actors and a RoboThespian, which is exactly what it sounds like. In Los Angeles, holograms substitute for dead loved ones in Jordan Harrison’s “Marjorie Prime.”

Mr. Gibbons’s “Uncanny Valley” is set perhaps 40-some years in the future but deliberately, somewhat jarringly, designed to look like now. It’s a techno take on the Pinocchio story: We watch Julian become an almost-real man, with Claire as one of a team of Geppettos. At 70, worried about her ailing, older husband, she’s familiar with the ravages of mortality that the wealthy can now escape.

Yet, as directed by Tom Dugdale, Ms. Kingsley seldom seems truly present, so it is difficult to believe in Claire the way we do in Julian. He is only a simulated human, and there may be a void where his ethical compass ought to be. But we’re sort of rooting for him just the same.

CANCUN por Jordi Galceran

Gala Hispanic Theatre presents “Cancun” by Jordi Galceran

CANCUN: A story about what happens when a dream vacation turns into the life you could only imagine.

After a night of fun, two married couples vacationing in Cancun begin to contemplate new possibilities in the great “what if’s” of their lives.

This hilarious comedy about contemporary relationships and marriage is written by Jordi Galceran, one of Spain’s leading playwrights from Catalonia.

Thursday, Sept 11 through Sunday, Oct 5, 2014

  • Written by Jordi Galceran. Directed by José Zayas.

  • In Spanish with English Surtitles

  • Thursday and Friday at 8 pm; Saturday at 2 pm and 8 pm; Sunday at 2 pm.

Tickets: https://www.boxofficetickets.com/bot/wa/event?id=283083

GALA Hispanic Theatre, 3333 14th St NW, Washington, DC 20010
202-234-7174

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BREAST IN SHOW – 5 Stars at Capital Fringe

BREAST IN SHOW the musical gets a 5***** Review

(Best of the Capital Fringe)*****

At last. A show that has taken the Capital Fringe Festival 2014 theme to heart: Move Me.

Breast in Show – the musical, conceived and produced by Eileen Mitchard, is arguably the best titled and best marketed show in this season’s lineup. (Collecting Fringe buttons? Patrons get their own pink Breast in Show button to proudly pin to their chests.) It’s also likely the most aptly named, as it shall prove prophetic when it comes time to clinch the Best of Fringe.

Joe Brancato directs DROP DEAD PERFECT! opening July 20th, Off Broadway

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FAUNA and BLOOD, two short plays by Yasmine Rana, now published in Kenyon Review

In 2013 the playwright Yasmine Rana was invited to submit a short play for a ten-minute festival in New York. She responded with a piece that was, in part, a dramatic response to the art installation by Imran Qureshi at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Roof Garden Commission. We were seized with admiration for “Fauna and Blood” and accepted it for publication in KROnline. Ms. Rana then offered a companion piece, also of great power. We are delighted to present both short plays here, along with photos of Imran Qureshi’s The Roof Garden Commission, which inspired them.

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