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The Truth Quotient

nytheatre.com review by Ed Malin
January 11, 2013

The Truth Quotient

Jarel Davidow, Angelina Fiordellisi and Brian Tom O'Connor in a scene from The Truth Quotient | Jon Kandel

For years, people have been writing about the dangers of human-robot infatuation.  E.T.A. Hoffmann (referenced in this piece), Villiers de l'Isle-Adam, Karel Čapek, Isaac Asimov, Philip K. Dick, Max Headroom.  Resonance Ensemble now brings us The Truth Quotient, award-winning playwright Richard Manley's extremely fresh take on being human in the information age.

David (Jarel Davidow) is an executive with an amazing life.  He has a sexy, much younger girlfriend named Caprice (Meredith Howard) and as the story opens he is reunited with his parents (Brian Tom O'Connor and Angelina Fiordellisi).  However, when Mom falters during the conversation, they are interrupted by all-seeing technical genius Rachel (Shaun Bennet Wilson).  She can fix the closest people in David's life; they just need to download new apps.  They aren't real people--they are simulacra engineered by the firm Nuréal--but are they better than the real thing?  David and Rachel agree that Schopenhauer is the best no-buts philosopher to address this, but more on that later.

If David was comfortable, he is jarred by the appearance of his estranged brother, Donald (Maxwell Zener).  Donald is a renowned poet, but he has terminal cancer and wants to reconcile with his only living relative.  This poses a threat to Rachel, whose company sells happiness, faith, certainty (see Schopenhauer), and a version of the truth that a reasonable person would accept.  Donald's indignation is parried by Rachel, who knows his entire history; if there's only one truth, why did he see four specialists about his condition?  Even Caprice is programmed to be "sad" when she experiences the unknown, and to "evolve" her tastes, just much more quickly than an organic being could. The characters battle each other in ways that will stay with you long after the show is over.  It is a timely topic, and unless you're the one person your friends have to call because you don't have email and you're not on Facebook, you may be concerned about your privacy.

Director Eric Parness is also a genius at maneuvering the thoroughly talented cast through the exponentially-growing conflicts of this story.  The action spans several weeks and never lets up, requiring many nice costumes from Sidney Shannon and a lot of fast changes.  By all means, take a date to this engrossing play, or take your parents.  Please note that Resonance Ensemble is presenting "The Truth Quotient" in repertory with R.U.R., the 1920s play which introduced the term "robot".