The Summoned targets a unique audience – computer nerds, who aren’t typically the first people you get in the front row at a theatre show.
But to anyone who knows a little something about hacking or computer security, this show just might blow your mind.
If not, you might drown in a sea of blue light and techy mumbo jumbo.
“How far from our nature can technology take us?” This is the question of the play. And playwright Fabrizio Filippo answers it loud and clear.
Conceptually, the show is brilliant – probably the most innovative play on stage right now. Filippo’s script takes us into unprecedented territory, and each plot development is a surprise, almost impossible to predict.
The two worlds of artificial intelligence and theatre come together in a rare marriage on stage, but while the script is intelligent and evocative as a whole, there is something inherently untheatrical about the majority of the play. I can’t help but think certain moments may work better on paper than on stage.
Staged in TED Talk format for about three-quarters of the show, Aldous (Fabrizio Filippo) walks us through the situation at hand: a tech visionary named Khan has died. But Khan is more than just a billionaire computer genius. He has also managed to deeply impact and manipulate the lives of those closest to him, and he continues to do so in ways you cannot possibly imagine, even in death.
Besides Aldous, Khan invites a handful of people to meet at a secured hotel for the reading of his will: the love of his life and Aldous’ mother Annie (Maggie Huculak), his lover Laura (Kelli Fox), his corporate companion Gary (John Bourgeois) and Aldous' wacky girlfriend and flight attendant Isla (Rachel Cairns). All the characters are held under the supervision of Khan’s security guard Quentin (Tony Nappo).
But none of the characters are who we think they are. Filippo messes with our heads until the very end.
As Aldous blabbers on, key words appear on a glowing blue screen behind him – this is the most prominent design element throughout the show (video by designer Kurt Firla).
During his talk, Aldous takes us back in time to little snippets of the characters’ lives while Khan was still around. While Aldous is speaking, we are able to form these intricate pictures of what Khan is like in our minds. Then, the characters act out certain memories involving Khan, oftentimes turning them into boisterous comedic moments, including a few 5-second fully clothed sex sessions that feel somewhat out of place in the grand scheme of things.
While each of the characters is very unique, Aldous narrates most of the story, teaching us more about the characters than the characters themselves. This play does a whole lot of telling and very little showing, and it’s often difficult to connect with the characters as a result.
It is in the final few scenes where the ridiculous melds with the serious. We get all the characters in one space, a little loopy from the “air freshener” in the air. All their secrets slowly unravel, including Khan’s entire reason for having them there. And it’s not necessarily for the reading of the will...
Prepare for the most simultaneously enticing and bizarre final scene you have seen in the theatre in a very long time.
The Summoned is playing at Tarragon Theatre until May 29. For more information, visit http://tarragontheatre.com/show/the-summoned/.