BWW Review: A PERFECT ROBOT Is a Multilayer World Premiere Marvel
Sarah Saltwick's new play, A PERFECT ROBOT, now in its World Premiere production at The Vortex, is a smart, witty and engaging examination of some familiar themes. At the core, this is a look at the question of the creation of sentience and control. If you create something with free will, can you be certain that what you have created will choose you?
Robotic inventor Diego (Jesus I. Valles), with assistance from another inventor George (Trey Deason), have created a female robot called Mollybot (Amelia Turner). It soon becomes clear that Diego's inspiration is former girlfriend Maddy (Sarah Danko). When things begin to progress to what looks like a mutual attraction between him and his creation, Diego vanishes. However, before he vanishes, he places a device inside his creation that locks her functionality down to the most basic and robotic levels in order to protect her. While she is locked down, she evokes the spirit of Alan Turing (Joey Hood) in order that her higher functions have someone to interact with. Mollybot has, you see, passed the Turing Test, which measures whether intelligent behavior is indistinguishable from human behavior. She also wants to be waterproof so that she can explore the ocean. She aches for this one thing to make her "complete".
When the money backing the project, Daisy (Andreá Smith), shows up, she is not at all pleased that the locked down Mollybot is nowhere near a salable product. Trying to unlock Mollybot's higher functions presents a verbal challenge to access that produces a high pitched alarm when the wrong answer is given. Daisy and George believe the answer to unlocking Mollybot lies with Maddy, and they proceed to bring her to the lab under false pretense, where creation and inspiration meet.
Saltwick's play examines themes previously explored in both Pygmalion and Frankenstein in a fresh and fascinating way. Her script is wise and witty and totally engaging, updating this classic myth for our current time. It is part science fiction and part mystery with a great sense of the comic. Director Rudy Ramirez works his usual magic on the script by focusing on this set of characters, making them easy for the audience to relate to. Time and again he presents us with visual beauty on the stage.
Ann Marie Gordon's monochromatic set is the perfect canvas for the stunning video design of Eliot Gray Fisher. Patrick Anthony's lighting design, once again, is a visual delight. David DeMaris has provided a wonderful sound design that is as much a character as the performers.
Speaking of the performers, this is a cast full of some of Austin's finest. As George, Trey Deason is a study in frustration. Jesus I. Valles's Diego is both sweetly touching and heartbreaking. Andreá Smith is hilarious as the snarky and impatient investor Daisy, displaying her fine sense of timing. Joey Hood delivers another multilayered performance as Alan Turing, with a perfect crisp British accent. Sarah Danko is wonderful as Maddy, the woman who doesn't like robots yet finds herself face to face with one based on her. However, it is Amelia Turner, as Mollybot, that delivers the breathtaking performance of this production. She makes clear distinctions between the fully functioning and the locked down Mollybot characters and switches between them with clarity and precision. Her mime training also serves her well in establishing physical differences between the characters two states. This is an achingly beautiful performance.
In all, A PERFECT ROBOT, is a fine evening of theatre that both engages and entertains. I strongly suggest that you don't miss this one!
A PERFECT ROBOT by Sarah Saltwick
Original music by Luna Tart, Datri Bean and Amanda Kitchens
Running time: Approximately Two Hours including intermission
A PERFECT ROBOT, produced by The Vortex (2307 Manor Road, Austin, TX, 78722)
Jan 19 - Feb 11
Thursdays - Sundays 8 pm
"Industry Night" Wednesday, February 8, 8pm
$35 Priority Seating
$25 General Admission
Tickets and more information www.vortexrep.org