As the world continues to learn more about coronavirus and its spread, it's vital to stay up-to-date on the latest developments. However, it's also important to make sure that the information being distributed is from credible sources. To that end, Between The Lines has compiled, [...]
By D. A. Blackburn
In many instances, new plays are a lot like new computer operating systems — largely functional, but frequently unleashed on the public with a few bugs undetected in beta testing. And like operating systems, plays often receive updates after an initially bumpy launch. But every now and then something truly remarkable happens — a new play (or even a mass of binary code) makes it to market without any kinks. This latter, more improbable scenario is definitely the case with Jeffrey Jackson’s “Two Point Oh,” making its public debut at the Detroit Repertory Theatre through May 23.
Melanie Leeds has a few problems. The wife of an absentee genius husband, a wealthy computer mogul, Melanie is dissatisfied with her life. She longs for companionship and children, but finds herself surrounded by high technology and material goods, more accustomed to video conferences with her husband Elliot than with his embrace. She’s decided to leave. But before she can slam the door on this chapter in her life, Elliot’s private jet disappears over the Pacific.
In the weeks that follow, Melanie spirals downward through her grief, until a surprise visit from her husband’s friend and business partner, Ben Robbins, snaps her back into reality — briefly. As she begins to pick up the pieces, she discovers a package from Elliot, containing a surprising gift: a computer program that uses the most innovative of artificial intelligence software to give her back her (albeit virtual) husband.
As one might expect, serious drama ensues — especially when virtual Elliot decides to reclaim his throne in corporate America. And that virtual life would be so much better if Melanie and Ben were to join him in cyber space.
The play that unfolds is a sharp exploration of love, mortality, morality and the very nature of existence. And while it all may sound a bit far-fetched, it never feels that way in motion. Jackson’s writing is exceptionally tight and consistently thoughtful, tying up all the loose ends and suspending disbelief in a very tidy package. It’s also loaded with timely, topical humor and the type of subtle witticisms that make good dialogue extremely memorable. (For example, Ben, to Melanie, upon learning of Elliot’s return: “I write software. I don’t sit down for a f*cking drink with it!”)
“Two Point Oh,” however, is also capable of conveying emotion with a jarring clarity. In the scenes immediately following Elliot’s untimely demise, Melanie’s grief is palpable. Much of the credit for this quality belongs to director Harry Wetzel. His knack for pacing dialogue for maximum impact is superb in these delicate moments. And the same can be said for his comedic sensibilities.
The Rep’s cast is likewise well-rounded. The cast of five are all superb in their roles. The three major players, Monrico Ward (Elliot), Satori Shakoor (Melanie) and Mark Barrera (Ben) all delight.
In two smaller roles, which serve as comedic foil to the script’s dramatic and intellectual messages, Maggie Patton and Mark Halpin earn tremendous laughs. Patton tackles the role of Catherine Powell, a hard-lining, hard-cursing conservative CEO, coping with the fall-out of her former boss’ re-animation. Halpin, as over-the-top news analyst Jerry Gold, brings a smarmy, brutally funny tone to his scenes, which are written to move the work through time and explain the greater public consciousness surrounding the main plot line.
The Rep’s “Two Point Oh” is, likewise, exceptionally smart in the technical and design respects. The work relies heavily on video to establish scenes, as well as the virtual Elliot, and the company has done fine work here. In addition to his stage direction, Wetzel also contributes a clever and thoughtful set design. Burr Huntington’s sound design is executed very well, and Thomas Schraeder’s lighting is solid, if a bit under-pronounced in the Jerry Gold scenes, frequently casting much of Halpin’s face in shadow when standing. Set in the present day, costuming for the play is fairly simple, but nevertheless reflects Judy Dery’s fine attention to detail.
“Two Point Oh” is easily one of the most creative and fun new works in recent memory. There’s little doubt in this critic’s mind that it has a bright future ahead of it, and as it’s only the second play to come from Mr. Jackson’s pen, there’s great hope that there’s more fine work to come.
‘Two Point Oh’
Detroit Repertory Theatre, 13103 Woodrow Wilson St., Detroit. Thursday-Sunday through May 23. $17-$20. 313-868-1347. http://www.detroitreptheatre.com