By: Peter Haas
“In this life, we’re born and we die. When it’s time to check out, we don’t try to cheat our way out of it with technology.” So states the CEO of a global software empire. However, outlasting death through computer wizardry is exactly what the CEO’s boss, the company’s founder and president, does in “Two Point Oh,” a fresh, imaginative new play by Jeffrey Jackson. Presented in October by The Active Theater at 59E59 Theaters, the production, directed by Michael Unger, combines a futuristic, science-fiction yet believable premise, excellent actors, and technology itself to offer a thought-provoking, delightful theater experience.
Short synopsis: Elliot Leeds (played persuasively and engagingly by Jack Noseworthy, who could double for a young Bill Gates), is the brilliant Gates-like founder and head of a multinational software company. He dies in a plane crash, leaving behind a virtual-reality simulation of himself – “Elliott 2.0” – that he had programmed earlier; his widow, Melanie (Karron Graves); Elliot’s college buddy, Ben, who is the company’s co-founder (played by the fine James Ludwig), and their company’s hysteria-prone, heavy-drinking CEO, Katherine (Antoinette LaVecchia). It’s their needs that drive the play: Melanie’s to have her husband back, Ben’s to emerge from Elliot’s shadow and to bring reason to the situation, Katherine’s to foster the survival of the company, even Elliot’s, to have Melanie use his preserved sperm to create their baby. Helping to unite scenes is blustery TV correspondent Jerry Gold (solidly caricatured by Michael Sean McGuinness). Playing in 59E59’s tiny, three-row Theatre C, where you can see the actors’ every expression, they need to be believable – and they are.
The piece offers one additional star: the technology that produces the center-stage rear-screen projection. Designed by David Bengali, it permits Elliott – seen throughout only on-screen, but with Noseworthy performing the role live from backstage via video feed – to interact convincingly with the onstage characters. The projections also simulate TV newscasts that augment and bridge the stage action. Two light chairs and a table are the play’s only furniture, with the table – now a desk, now a dining table, now a computer stand – changing its “role” as it’s revolved through the back flat.
It’s this combination of an imaginative concept, the simplicity of staging, fine acting throughout, and the colorful use of the added “actor,” the technology, that makes “Two Point Oh” an absorbing session of theater.
Photos: Jimmi Kilduff