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Theatre Review: Uncanny Valley

  

There is something fascinating, and a little bit creepy, about artificial intelligence. Take the first scene of this play.  A partially complete robot with a lifelike head is undergoing basic testing - the arms haven’t been put on the torso yet.

As the designer tests the robot’s verbal logic, the robot asks a lot of questions.

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO HIS QUESTIONS

The robot is being custom built for an incredibly wealthy businessman, who is dying of cancer. It’s a virtual replica of the man based on a photograph taken when he was 34, and the man intends to have all of his memories, his consciousness, copied into the robot before he dies. The robot is curious about that process.

LISTEN TO WHAT THE ROBOT HAS TO SAY

Actor Michael Patrick Wiles gives a remarkable performance as the robot - first as a half-completed project on a test bench, learning how to smile and blink, later as a fully functioning individual, virtually indistinguishable from a flesh-and-blood human.

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And the robot is designed to function for at least 200 years, raising all sorts of questions about ethics, property rights, family relationships and inheritance, since the robot would assume the businessman’s role and continue running his corporate empire.

It makes for an unusually thought-provoking, handsomely-mounted two-actor show, examining possibilities that are likely to become real-life news in the not too distant future. 

The Capital Stage production of “Uncanny Valley” continues through July 19.