“Comic Potential,” McLean Community Players: From left -- Adam (Scott Duvall), a young writer, uses a Bible to teach android performer Jacie (Caity Brown), how to read.
Photo by Toby Reidway/IrishEyes
How timely in this day-and-age of Artificial Intelligence (AI) that the McLean Community Players present the area premiere of the romantic comedy “Comic Potential.” The comedy centers on an android that seems to have human potential. Written by Alan Ayckbourne, the play was first produced in 1998 long before artificial intelligence was anywhere near what it is today.
Ayckbourn's play came from his premise that laughing and the ability to fall in love are for humans not androids. From that notion comes “Comic Potential,” a play set in the foreseeable future, when television programs use life-like androids to fill in for human actors.
Set in a television studio “Comic Potential” follows a has-been director (Frank Gorell), who has been drinking to excess and his by-the-book assistant (Samantha “Sam” David) who are not doing well using androids as actor in a soap opera. As the director, Gorell becomes unglued as he loses control “all while trying to explain to himself what was happening” As his assistant, David “wonders if she had made mistakes in programming leading to some unnerving androids quirks.”
In comes an idealistic new executive (Scott Duvall) who tries to make things better. What happens next is rather unexpected. The new executive meets an android with the name JC333; nicked-named Jaycee Triplethree (Caity Brown). Everything is turned upside down as the romantic-comedy asks, “Can a budding relationship between human and an android become the real thing, or is it doomed?”
“There are very interesting questions raised by ‘Comic Potential,’” said director Bob Sams. “What is love, and can restrictions be placed upon it? Can a human actually fall in love with an android and can an android actually experience love?”
“’Comic Potential’ serves up a double helping of comedy,” added Sams. “This is a show that will make you hang on the edge of your seat wondering how the characters are going to escape ‘another fine mess you’ve gotten me into.’”
As the android, Brown transforms herself from an android into someone with human feelings, way more than mere AI code. It all begins with her unanticipated laughter. As Brown described that moment “was my laughter just a random fault or the beginnings of something else? As Jaycee Triplethree would I begin to have my own thoughts and noticed things I hadn’t before?”
“Comic Potential” is a “show that glitters with its wonderful ensemble of actors,” added director Sams.