Review: Awaiting the Singularity with "Nothing Human"
Written by Duncan Pflaster
Directed by Aiza Shane
Presented by Cross-Eyed Bear Productions at The Chain Theatre
312 W 36th St., 4th floor, Manhattan, NYC
October 15-26, 2019
|Anthony Irizzary and Samantha Simone. Photo provided by Emily Owens PR
Set in 2011, Nothing Human follows two parallel plots. In the first, Alberto (Anthony Irizarry), who fled New York City after a mysterious phone call telling him not to go into work the next day caused him to escape being killed in the 9/11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, meets Amy (Samantha Simone) in a bar in Boca Raton, Florida, just after Osama bin Laden is killed, and they hit it off. Now Alberto, who has been living in constant paranoia under an assumed name in Boca and has secretly brought the advanced AI ALBA (Alexandra Cremer) with him, must decide how far, if at all, to let Amy into his life. Amy has a brother, Benny (Dante Jayce), who, as a 9/11 truther and conspiracy theorist blogger, is just as paranoid in his own way (and racist to boot). In the second plot, playwright Alex (Roberto Alexander) has sold his script for a film about a time-traveling alien computer being responsible for the world's great historical atrocities, including the Holocaust and 9/11. Alex meets stage actress Abigail (Shakeerah-Imani) at a party thrown for him by his partner of over a decade, Zach (Adam Patterson), and helps both her and their mutual friend, stage actress Angela (Sarah Kaufman), to land parts in his movie. Soon enough, however, the studio is interfering in Alex's vision, including casting currently hot rapper Antony "Linc" Lincoln (Amir Royale), and setting the two plots on a collision course.
|Sarah Kaufman, Amir Royale, Shakeerah-Imani.
Photo provided by Emily Owens PR
Nothing Human is tightly plotted, and its numerous moving parts come together satisfyingly. The production also builds a vivid sense of the world that these characters inhabit with only a few stools and chairs, the actors, and some projections, which establish scene titles, dates, and locations but also represent elements like ALBA and her online searches. The cast is strong, with Royale and Patterson generating some of the biggest laughs, Irizarry and Simone creating engaging chemistry and nuance in their characters' relationship, and Alexander giving a spirited performance tracing Alex's increasing disillusionment with breaking into the film business.
If you only see one play this month in which bin Laden and Hitler dance to hip hop through a protagonist's nightmare, make it Nothing Human.
-John R. Ziegler and Leah Richards