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  • Angela Allyn

AI is here at Jackalope



Jackalope Theatre Company’s brand new work The Singularity Play, now on view in  the charming and intimate Berger Park Cultural Center Coach house, will catapult you from a gorgeous expansive and naturally beautiful lake view into an uncomfortable dark future where being human merges with artificial intelligence.

 

The story begins in a Google corporate conference room where actors and stage manager are at a table reading of a script written by an AI named Denise.  It’s not going well.  A programmer in the corner collects “data” and boundaries become very unclear. The actors bemoan being replaced by AI. We begin to question: are emotions real?


Director Georgette Verdin utilizes a number of  flashing lights as a convention to show time passing or jumps in the action and then we are suddenly in a future (or maybe all of what we have seen is actually a computer game?) where consciousness has been uploaded into Avatars and the actors we have been watching are now generated, embodied beings. Or perhaps the scene we were watching was the In World musings of the Avatars?  The set folds up, and in a nod to Matrix, the characters go offline, sitting in the corner, head down. There is a long discussion of Wetware, and another about the construct of gender.  No one can agree with anyone else. One character glitches out in rage and violence. What is reality? and what is In World, Off World, Which World? becomes blurry. 


Finally a refugee from humanity, Dawn,(Jennifer Jelsema) arrives when the space contains just one AI,Dennis, (Anelga Hajjar) in symbolic white, and Dawn performs an ancient human funeral rite for the person Dennis was when they were human before someone else’s consciousness was uploaded into the wetware.  The lights dim.  And then come up as Dennis contemplates a mask, and perhaps asks what IS real. 


The ensemble here is excellent, navigating the ambiguity of the play’s reality with skill. The script by Jay Stull, which asks more questions than it answers, makes their job of conveying what is happening yeoman’s work requiring presence and physicality and they are more than up to the task. They will help you safely navigate the confusing and somewhat threatening plot. 


This show captures the gestalt of this cultural moment when reality and truth are in flux and we are all somewhat lost picking our way through the barrage of information most of which is surreal.  The actual experience of seeing this play has that same feeling I get when I am watching some post truth reality show on tv: we get up every morning now wondering what is “real” and how did we get here? This is a thought provoking evening of theater in a lovely venue. It was a relief to head back out into the night and stare at the waves of Lake Michigan.  


The Singularity Play is playing Thursdays through Sundays and some select Mondays through June 22, 2024 at the Berger Park Coach House, 6205 N. Sheridan Road, in Chicago’s Edgewater Neighborhood. For tickets and information go to https://www.jackalopetheatre.org/the-singularity-play


Photos by Matthew Gregory Hollis


For more reviews go to https://www.theatreinchicago.com

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