Technology, ethics blur in Alliance’s digital ‘Data’

Bill Mount

One of the show’s “special effects” enabled the four cast members to stay 10 or 20 feet apart while shooting their scenes — in keeping with COVID guidelines — and then splicing them together in a way that the co-stars only appear to be on the same couch, or at […]

One of the show’s “special effects” enabled the four cast members to stay 10 or 20 feet apart while shooting their scenes — in keeping with COVID guidelines — and then splicing them together in a way that the co-stars only appear to be on the same couch, or at the same desk, or across the same ping-pong table. The gimmick doesn’t always work well; when they supposedly peer into one another’s eyes, sometimes you can tell they’re out of alignment, looking slightly to the left or right of where the other person is positioned.

Consequently, if understandably, although the actors excel in individual moments, they rarely generate much chemistry or rapport together to fully function as a real ensemble: Cheech Manohar portrays the conflicted protagonist, opposite Clare Latham as his conscientious accomplice, Jake Berne as an opportunistic co-worker, and Stephen Hu as the unscrupulous boss who even raids all the Twinkies from the office vending machine.

While “Data” viewers can’t gather or connect “in person,” either, each screening begins with an “interactive lobby experience” designed by the Atlanta-based company Subsume, a tech platform for storytellers. Regular streaming is also available, but the interactive feature allows audience members to create their own avatar, mingle around the lobby and “chat” with others, before entering a virtual theater to watch the production from their computers.

We may never know how “Data” plays on an actual theater stage. As is, despite all its cutting-edge technology, the irony is that it’s finally too stagy to make a really good movie, anyway.

THEATER REVIEW

“Data”

Through May 23 via the Alliance Theatre Anywhere digital platform. Live virtual screenings are Thursdays-Saturdays at 7:30 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m. Also available for basic “anytime” streaming. $5-$100. 404-733-4650. alliancetheatre.org.

Bottom line: At once a slightly static would-be thriller and a somewhat stilted morality play.

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