The world premiere season of “The Truth Quotient,” written by Richard Manley, directed by Eric Parness for Resonance Ensemble, and playing at The Beckett Theater at Theater Row, is sure to be a success. A spinoff of Karel Capk’s 1922 Broadway drama “R.U.R,” “The Truth Quotient” raises a slew of questions regarding the nature and importance of truth, love, reality, and humanity, challenging its audience to consider a world in which we could pay for artificial company in the appearance of human loved ones who have passed us by.
The protagonist, David, played by Jarel Davidow, has done exactly that, and the beginning of the play finds him amidst his first encounter with his “parents,” robots that have the appearance of his deceased human parents and have been implanted with information to fulfill his ideal conversation. The scene is interrupted when David tries to discuss certain authors with them, namely George Eliot and Charles Dickens, and they stare at him blankly in response, indicating their complete lack of knowledge regarding the literary giants. David’s “parents” then “turn off” and a beautiful woman named Rachel introduces herself to David as his guide for adjusting to his new artificial company. She works for a company called Nureal, the company from which David is purchasing his “new family.” She explains that David’s “parents” have yet to “download” information regarding authors that died before the turn of the 20th century.
Soon they download this information, however, and David’s adjustment to his new way of life gains pace. In one of the following scenes, the audience learns that David’s “new family” includes a lover in the mold of a beautiful young girl whom David later claims he would never be able to date under human circumstances. Conflict arises near the middle of the play, when David’s brother, Donald, whom he hasn’t spoken to in a decade, shows up on his doorstep intending to make amends for lost years. After learning that Donald has been diagnosed with cancer, David expresses eagerness to, likewise, make amends and reintegrate him into his life. Rachel fights the idea, arguing that Donald won’t understand David’s new lifestyle. And so the story really takes off, though I won’t unveil the direction in which it goes.
I will say, however, that, as a proponent for Nureal’s technology, Rachel, played by Shaun Bennet Wilson, pushes the audience to really think through the ethical questions her company poses. If David’s “new family” elicits genuine happiness within him, does their artificial nature make such a feeling any less real? Does truth only have one expression? If we have faith in something artificial, does it become true? And if we can control the “people” around us to make us our happiest selves, why shouldn’t we?
“R.U.R.,” the play on which “The Truth Quotient” is based, is also showing at The Beckett Theater. “R.U.R.” tells the story of robots that are mass produced to function as domestic servants for humans. They ultimately rebel, killing off the human race. Buy tickets for “R.U.R.” and “The Truth Quotient,” which both run until February 2, on The Beckett Theater website – they come highly recommended!
Inside New York 2013 can be purchased here.