Written and Performed by Eliza Gibson; Directed by David Ford
Part of the 2018 FRIGID New York Festival
Off Off Broadway, Solo Show
Runs through 3.4.18
UNDER St. Marks, 94 St. Marks Place
by Asya Danilova on 3.3.18
Eliza Gibson in BRAVO 25: Your A.I. Therapist Will See You Now.
BOTTOM LINE: Eliza Gibson stars as six humans and one artificial intelligence therapist in a moving and profound solo show about the nature of emotions.
If you need to patch up your soul or restore your faith in humanity, Bravo 25: Your A. I. Therapist Will See You Now is just the right medicine. Sheryl (Eliza Gibson) is looking for an AA meeting; to her surprise, the gathering in room B25 is actually an A.I. meeting. An experimental support group of colorful characters is led by an artificial intelligence therapist named Amber, all performed by Gibson (also the writer of the piece). This hilarious and incredibly touching solo show has a therapeutic effect itself, maybe because of Gibson’s background as a clinical social worker.
Gibson is phenomenal in portraying a variety of characters. Each is distinctly nuanced yet none are caricatures. Without costumes or props, she effectively uses her body language, voice and facial expressions to nail such parts as macho Tony, anxious Marsha, polyamorous lesbian Victoria, job-hunting Jeremy, lost Sheryl, grieving Little Bit and, of course, the A.I., Amber. Occasionally she addresses members of the audience, making us all a part of the support group. Gibson is a virtuoso of seamless multiple-character dialogue, especially when it comes to heated arguments between group members. At the performance I attended, she only skipped a beat once or twice, because the audience was laughing so hard she couldn’t continue.
The supervision and guidance of the avatar Amber at first proves ineffective in helping humans to fix their broken lives. As Little Bit reasons, how can somebody who is “not a real person” help humans cope with emotions? But Amber learns fast and soon is able to detect irony, taste food and venture into multiple conversations at different locations simultaneously. To steal the words from one of the characters (even though I was specifically threatened not to), “Bacon doughnuts and rollercoasters—what’s next for the A.I.?”
The therapy group only proves that openness, compassion and willingness to be there for each other is the best way to get over hard times. They are also helpful in training the artificial intelligence, which may or may not oppress humanity with its secret A.I. society in the future. But as opposed to the dystopian Black Mirror or Electric Dreams, BRAVO 25 provides a more optimistic view of the development of technology. As Amber teaches us, feelings are the way you choose to look at things. And while it often goes the other way for humans, whose views are influenced by their moods, it is sometimes useful to put on pink or yellow glasses to adjust.
(BRAVO 25: Your A.I. Therapist Will See You Now plays at UNDER St. Marks, 94 St. Marks Place, through March 4, 2018. The running time is 1 hour. Performances are Fri 2/16 at 7:10, Sun 2/18 at 1:50, Mon 2/19 at 10:30, Sat 2/24 at 5:30, Wed 2/28 at 5:30, and Sun 3/4 at 1:50. Tickets are $15 and are available at horsetrade.info.)
BRAVO 25: Your A.I. Therapist Will See You Now is written and performed by Eliza Gibson. Directed by David Ford.