I went to the Purple Rose Theatre in Chelsea yesterday to see the play Smart Love by Brian Letscher in its world premier production. Son Ben is devastated when he witnesses his father Ron die of a heart attack. Ben is a student at MIT and, overcome with grief, recreates his father in the lab, loading the new blend of man and machine (including internet connection) with material from his father’s journals. But mother Sandy isn’t pleased with Ron back in her life. Ben hadn’t known she had soured on the relationship and had very good reasons for that. The play is a modern exploration of the Frankenstein story and how it affects family relations. Is an artificial intelligence human? The play is fascinating with many funny spots, but mostly it is intense. Ben is described as having spent the seven months since his father’s death surviving on energy drinks while working 16 hour days. He’s more than a bit hyper and unstable.
The Purple Rose does more than put on plays. It also develops plays. The author can work with the director and the company of actors to try out scenes and incorporate suggestions. For this play the theater also hosted a gathering to discuss the latest in artificial intelligence (nearby Ann Arbor is an AI center). The gathering included researchers as well as theologians and ethicists. That discussion had an influence on the script. I learned this last bit during the talk-back session after the show.
This play runs for another week.