Note to Actors: You Have Nothing to Worry About

Prentice, Khan. Photo courtesy Road Theatre.

The Road Theatre inaugurates its latest season with two plays, High Maintenance by Peter Ritt and later, Singularities by Laura Stribling, in repertory. First up, High Maintenance pits a disgraced actress, Laura Miller (Ivy Khan), playing Nora, against a unique robotic co-star named Roger (Christian Prentice) in a new rendition of “A Doll’s House.”  The conceit, of course, is that a robot is not expected to be as nuanced as a human being in the role of Helmer.

Snappy Thesbot founder, Alan Steele (showbizzy Kris Frost), is behind the venture for which he plans to create a stable of working “actors” to take the place of those pesky and privileged humans we call stars. The artistic director, Vera Osborne (Amy Tolsky), hopes Steele’s creations will put “butts in seats,” while super-efficient P.A, Samm (Alexis Ingram), makes sure the project is going well, allowing Laura to spend more and more time “teaching” Roger the emotional ropes. It is only when Steele introduces a rival, “Thesbot Prime” (Tommy Dickie), that audiences learn the extent of Roger’s education.

All of Ritt’s fascinating story takes place on the Road Theatre stage with minimal set pieces (designed by Brian Graves), against a projected backdrop (by designer Ben Rock) that unfortunately, is hard to discern in the face of a standardized lighting plot by Derrick McDaniel.  What might have been an interesting succession of locations (main stage, dressing room, dinner theatre, theatre rooftop) instead melds into a succession of comings and goings.  But the process of teaching robot Roger to act remains the central action, and no manner of different locations can dissuade audiences from this intriguing process.

Director Stan Zimmerman keeps the parade moving.  But due to the limitations of set pieces, the dressing room scenes, in particular, are statically reduced to one side of the stage with actors carrying on dialogue looking into imaginary mirrors at each other.

Despite these quibbles, High Maintenance reiterates the question on everybody’s minds these days:  are we going to be replaced by AI.?  And Ritt’s comforting answer is: not yet.

High Maintenance continues in repertory with Singularities, Friday and Saturday, April 19th and 20th, and then Sunday, April 28th at 7pm and Monday through Thursday, May 2 at 8pm, before continuing in rep through May 19th.  Phone (818) 761-8838 or go online at  to purchase tickets and view complete schedule.