Smart Love Review – Frankenstein for the Digital Age

Melissa Weber Bales and Scott Conte in SMART LOVE - Photo by Jeff Lorch
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Technology has crept into almost every corner of life these days, so why not into the most secret of spots, the human heart? Playwright Brian Letscher asks that question, and comes up with some fascinating answers. SMART LOVE is a contemporary twist on what makes a human human – and can an artificial human be human? Directed by Elina de Santos, SMART LOVE raises some hilarious questions – and then responds with even more uproarious replies. Mary Shelly is probably smiling from afar.

Melissa Weber Bales and Zachary Grant – Photo by Jeff Lorch

The good widow Wachowski (Melissa Weber Bales) has finally finished mourning the loss of her husband and moved on – into the arms of a more-than-willing Victor (Scott Conte). After all, her husband Ron (Michael Mantell) wasn’t exactly perfect. An inveterate inventor, Ron spent more time with his creations than he did with his lonely wife Sandy. And he never even seemed to get the idea that a dirty dish, soap, and water were inexorably bound in a necessary lifelong chore.

Michael Mantell and Zachary Grant – Photo by Jeff Lorch

Just when life seems to be on an even keel again, Sandy gets an unexpected visit from her genius son Benji (Zachary Grant), who has developed a very unusual MIT doctoral project which he wants to share with his mother. A chip off the old block, the technologically sophisticated young man has figured out how to heal his mother and make their family whole again. Enter dad – but a new and improved dad. Even if he has some quirky computer-like glitches, he still knows how to charm his stunned wife. And Benji is all set to marry them again. But wait – what about Victor? And, besides, is a computerized imitation of life, even if charming and dapper, ready to become a real husband and father?

Zachery Grant – Photo by Jeff Lorch

SMART LOVE is a thought-provoking piece (between laughs, of course) which is tailor made for today’s science – and all the ethical and practical questions which current invention may entail. But it’s really hard to ponder such weighty considerations with all the hilarious shenanigans going on. The cast is letter perfect in conveying their emotional roller coaster rides through today’s digital world. David Mauer’s set is also just right, the uninspired rooms belonging to a mundane middle class family located at the edge of a dying Midwestern city. Leigh Allen’s lighting, Christopher Moscatiello’s sound, and Elizabeth A. Cox’s costumes add to the overall ambience. And let’s not forget Myrna Gawryn’s choreography, coupled with Marwa Bernstein’s dance sequence choreography, which lends some zip to the proceedings.

Zachary Grant and Melissa Weber Bales – Photo by Jeff Lorch

SMART LOVE raises some intriguing questions while sandwiched inside a story made for chuckles. This is a light, funny, and charming play which will resonate with today’s millennials – but also with the older crowd who suspect that changes are coming fast enough to make their heads spin. And spin they will as SMART LOVE unravels before the audience’s eyes.

Michael Mantell and Scott Conte – Photo by Jeff Lorch


SMART LOVE runs through February 24, 2019, with performances at 8 p.m. on Thursdays through Saturdays and at 3 p.m. on Sundays. Pacific Resident Theatre is located at 703 Venice Blvd., Venice, CA 90291. Tickets range from $25 to $34 (discounts for seniors ($3) and students ($5) on Thursdays and Fridays). For information and reservations, call 310-822-8392 or go online.


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