The third show of 2nd Story Theatre's season is the 1998 "Comic Potential" by British author, Alan Ayckbourn who has written 72 shows. It is a romantic sci-fi comedy. The show is set in a TV studio in the foreseeable future, when low-cost androids (actoids) have largely replaced actors. Idealistic young writer Adam Trainsmith meets Chandler Tate now known as Chance is a former director of classic comedies who makes a living by directing a never-ending soap opera. Adam greatly admires his past directorial work. The leading-role android makes a series of mistakes and the supporting role android spots his lapses and laughs. Later on, while Adam is watching an old slapstick comedy of Buster Keaton, the android laughs again. She is afraid that the sense of humor is a production fault. Adam sees it as an advantage and nicknames her Jacie and persuades Chandler that they should make a comedy for her. Regional TV director Carla Pepperbloom threatens to ruin the project because she is jealous of Adam's sympathy for the talented Jacie and orders the android's memory wiped out. Adam panics and decides to kidnap Jacie but while on the lam they fall in love. To reveal any further details will spoil the fun for the audience. "Comic Potential" is Aychbourn's fifty-third full-length play. The show is about the ability to laugh and the ability to fall in love. They are both illogical and therefore differentiate humans from androids.The comedy also explores the Pygmalion syndrome and competing desires for autonomy and certainty. Director Ed Shea casts the most talented 10 performers in these roles, garnering much laughter along the way with their expertise at farcical situations.
Ed is aided in his task by productions manager, Max Ponticelli who keeps the set pieces appearing at the appropriate moments and keeps the scenes flowing along beautifully. Topnotch work is also done by costume designer Ron Cesario, lighting by Ron Allen and music by John Connery. Laura Sorensen who is gorgeous and ethereal plays Jacie who is onstage almost the whole time as the actoid.From her infectious laughter in the opening scene in the futuristic soap opera where she is dressed as a nurse to the end of this show, she shines in this comic role. Laura makes this character vulnerable and appealing. Some of her funniest moments come when she is in the dress shop to pick out new clothes, wears a garment bag, moons the audience in her new dress, throws a custard pie in Carla's face when Carla calls her talentless because she is only an actoid and in the restaurant with Adam when her alarm for her waste disposal needs to be emptied. After this hilarious moment she exclaims"Once a man has seen your trap door, it's all over" which was drowned out by uproarious laughter. Dillon Medina who is only 22 years old, mesmerizes the audience with his talent. He plays Adam who is comparable to a futuristic Pygmalion when he teaches Jacie how to love a human being as well as teaches her how to read using the bible in a hotel room. He is dynamic in this leading role. Dillon delivers a show stopping rapid fire description of his script to his uncle and his funniest scene is when he crawls under the table at the restaurant to empty Jacie as she shrieks in delight like Meg Ryan in "Sleepless in Seattle" while a husband and wife enjoy the proceedings. Dillon and Laura have excellent chemistry with each other. They capture the sympathy of the audience who root for them to have a successful relationship. To find out whether a man can love a robot in the future, one has to see this show.
Lynne Collinson plays the man eating, bitchy Carla Pepperbloom to the hilt. She obtains many laughs as this Cruela DaVille type of character. Clad in a red wig dressed in gorgeous costumes, she exclaims nothing personal when she fires people and spouts legalize to Adam when he refuses to have supper with her. The pie in the face is hilarious. (Lynne also excels in dramatic roles, having directed her as Laura in "The Glass Menagerie" in 1986.) John Michael Richardson is a hoot as Chance, the hard drinking, fading director who has become disillusioned by the business, only to be brought back to life by Adam's comedy ideas for Jacie. After Adam describes his comedy script in rapid fire delivery to his Uncle Lester who runs the TV station, Chance says he is like Zero Mostel on speed. He has many funny lines in his arguments with his two assistants, calling them many derogatory names and calls Carla, Black Death. Chance realizes that this is his last chance to do a worthwhile project with Adam. John Michael is not only an excellent actor but a brilliant director. Chance's two assistants, Trudi Floote and Prim Spring are wonderfully played by Susan Bowen Powers and Juli Parker. They have a lot of bickering going on in the control room with Chance who infers that they are lovers. Trudi warns Adam to be careful with Jacie that he is having actoid empathy. Trudi is an engineer and Prim is the computer programmer for the actoids. They eventually grow to like Adam's calming influence on Chance. Rounding out the cast playing multiple comic roles are Bob Colonna (who directed me in "A Winter's Tale" and "Taming of the Shrew" at TRIST in 1987 and 1990 respectively) Kevin Broccoli, Vince Petronio and Paula Faber. So for a thought provoking laugh out loud comedy with a lot of comic potential to help you escape this brutal winter, be sure to catch Comic Potential" at 2nd Story Theatre.