Disruption ★★★★★

Disruption, a new play by Andrew Stein at Park Theatre, is a timely insight into the increasingly-controversial world of A.I. which examines its potential benefits as well as the human cost.

The subject of Artificial Intelligence never seems far from the headlines, whether it’s striking Hollywood actors and writers who are worried about how A.I. could affect their craft and careers, or the government setting up a global summit to regulate its safety, concerns are mounting and widespread. Therefore Andrew Stein’s new play Disruption couldn’t be a more timely exploration of the possibilities and potential of A.I. and acts as a portent for its moral ambiguity.

The protagonist Nick, a tech genius and entrepreneur, has arrived back in New York and invited three of his oldest friends and their partners to dinner. The couples Ben and Suzie, Paul and Jill, and Mia (Jill’s sister) and Barry are introduced on receiving their invitations, which are met with excitement from the men about meeting an old friend and with a mixture of trepidation and skepticism from their wives, as one wryly obverses that “he is kryptonite to marriage”.

After being reunited with the old friends and receiving a mixed response from some, Nick introduces the group to an unexpected guest, a young women called Raven who turns out to be his business partner and fellow tech genius, rather than his date.

Image by Pamela Raith Photography
​As the evening progresses and the drinks flow, more is discovered about the couples: Ben wants a baby, Jill and Paul’s marriage is strained and Barry and Mia share different views for their future. Nick finally states the true reason for their meet up and reveals that he and Raven have developed an algorithm which has the ability to think for humans and can make the big life choices in order to bring someone happiness. Not surprisingly to some of the group, Nick wants to bring his friends in as investors and sets about convincing them that this is a once in a life-time opportunity. It’s this which forms the basis of how the narrative of the play develops, as the couples wrangle with the decision to invest or not (is it a deal with the devil?) and how Nick and Raven may or may not be influencing their decisions with the help of the algorithm.
Steins’s script is witty and the dialogue feels natural which creates believable and captivating  characters. The cast are engaging in their respective roles and are all well-rounded in their characterisations. Director Hersh Ellis successfully manages to make the audience feel invested in each of the couple’s storylines as the story dips in and out of each of their lives, giving witness to how Nick’s proposal shapes their relationships. 

Oliver Alvin Wilson as Nick is impressively charismatic and carries the relaxed confidence of an alpha male tech entrepreneur with ease. However his salesman’s charm belies a darker manipulative side in his quest to create the perfect algorithm. 

Debbie Korley in particular shines as Suzie; her portrayal is that of an intelligent, wise and strong woman, who is able to articulate her concerns about the future of technology, much to Nick’s displeasure. A particular scene with Ben (convincingly played by It’s A Sin‘s Nathaniel Curtis) after she’s had a few drinks is particularly fun and expertly characterised by Korley. 

The set design by Zoë Hurwitz subtlety references the world of tech with the entire floor cut out to resemble a giant circuit board. Lighting and projection by Robbie Butler cleverly utilises these shapes to project down on to, giving flow and dynamism to the floor and production throughout. One standout effect is rain which appears to create binary puddles on the floor. The overall result is a production which is slick, modern and stylistic without being try hard or flashy for flashy sake. 

Disruption is a thought-provoking story, which is entertaining and unnerving in equal measures. 

Forget A.I. – Disruption is the real deal! ★★★★★ 5 stars

Disruption Tickets

Disruption runs at Park Theatre until Sat 5 August 2023

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