Imagine a world where actors have been replaced with robots (or actoids) devoid of any human emotion. They give flawless performances, are never late for work, don’t require pay, and you can forget about any kind of publicity nightmare.
This is the world of Adam Trainsmith, an aspiring comedy writer, who has just landed a job writing for a banal, never-ending soap opera. While left alone in the studio, Adam runs an old comedy film and notices actoid JC-F31-333 laughing – an endearing malfunction. Astounded and elated by this, Adam nicknames the actoid Jacie and begins teaching her comedic acting techniques.
When high-powered executive Carla Pepperbloom witnesses the actoids abilities, she orders to have Jacie scrapped, which poses a problem – Adam and Jacie have fallen in love.
Comic Potential premiered in Scarborough in June 1998 before hitting the London theatre circuit the following year. The play was an immediate success; critics and audiences alike praised Sir Alan Ayckbourn’s story-telling ability and his commentary on the human characteristics of love and laughter.
Ayckbourn is considered one of Britain’s most performed playwrights (rumored to be second only to William Shakespeare), and has, to date, written 77 plays. His plays have been translated into 35 languages, won numerous awards nationally and internationally, and have been performed worldwide on stage and television.
CSU theatre professor and director of Comic Potential, Dr. Eric Prince, has special ties to Sir Alan Ayckbourn. He worked in close association with the writer and his acclaimed Stephen Joseph Theatre for 18 years in Scarborough, North Yorkshire.
“I got to be backstage at his shows and see him at work with his actors. It was exhilarating to watch the master at work creating his pieces and bringing them to life on stage,” Prince said.
Prince, who saw the world premiere of the play in 1998, is excited to be bringing Comic Potential to the CSU stage.
“After you leave the show, you’ll wonder what you’ve just been laughing at,” said Prince. “It’s human life! Ayckbourn is a shrewd observer of human behavior, and this is evident in his writing.”
In a personal note to CSU, Ayckbourn shares his original inspiration for writing Comic Potential: “It sprang from my belief that laughter and love are closely allied. Both concepts, laughter and love, are essentially devoid of logic. Machines, however humanoid in appearance, cannot comprehend these two unique quirks of human behavior. And if they could, they would suspect an illogical malfunction. The play divides the humans with humor, the humans devoid of humor, the actoids without humor, and the actoid with humor. How close are we to machines and how close to us are they? I hope the play combines both elements; it’s full of humor and it’s filled with love,” said the writer.
The audience will be able to watch these themes unfold in a theatre-in-the-round performance – the same way Ayckbourn staged the play. This brings the audience closer to the action with one-third of the audience being in the front row seated around the circular stage in CSU’s Studio Theatre.
“This allows the audience to connect with each other and the actors, putting everyone in the room on display, which creates a different atmosphere,” Prince said. “The students will have to rise up to the occasion and be confident when creating the illusion of the story.”
Comic Potential is known for making a lasting impression, and the end of the play leaves the audience with a single warning.
“I can’t share that piece,” said Prince. “You’ll just have to come and find out for yourself.”
Comic Potential performance dates:
Nightly: Jan. 31, Feb. 1, 2, 3, 7, 8, 9, 10, 17 at 7:30 p.m.
For a full performance and event calendar, more information, and to sign up for a free event e-newsletter, visit www.UniversityCenterfortheArts.com.