'Love+' is a delightfully funny and entertaining one-woman two-hander delving into AI, and human/robotic relationships and how we might deal with the inevitable interactions between the programmed and the programmer.
However, 'Love+' is more than just a peek into the future of artificial intelligence – it is about loving, being loved, being wanted, and whether those emotional needs are reliant on being human.
It imagines a future where AI has evolved to the extent that robots will anticipate our every impulse and fulfil our every need. It asks: What happens to romance when there’s a machine who cooks for you, cleans for you, never forgets your birthday, holds you when you’re crying, and still pleasures you?
Devised and directed by Claire O’Reilly of Dublin theatre collective MALAPROP, 'Love+' tackles an existential question – how will we relate to androids in our day-to-day lives and what will be the outcome? Can our need for human intimacy be satisfied by machines and if we learn to love them will they love us back?
In this 50-minute, tightly-scripted rom-com, Caoimhe Coburn-Gray plays the near-perfect robot partner. She is obedient, subservient, nonjudgmental and caring while her human owner, Maeve O’Mahony plays a demanding, vulnerable, and needy young woman who wants a fully-rounded and emotionally-charged sexual connection with her programmed companion.
While 'Love+' poses many questions it doesn’t offer any answers – instead it leaves you pondering whether it is possible to form a satisfying relationship with a machine and in doing so, it raises the specter of master-servant relationships and highlights the inequality of many human connections.
Despite the apparent close bond between the two, there is a disturbing undercurrent of artificiality to the relationship that never really subsides. Even when they sit side-by-side watching movie reruns there is an obvious disconnect that can’t be bridged.
A break in the movie allows the couple to join a live conversation in an adult chat room where they interact with a sex-bot who has very human desires. Delivered as a screen projection, it is one of the more comedic parts of the show and highlights the absurdity of recreating human emotion in the digital world. No matter how well-programmed bots may be – the nuance and subtlety of language is difficult to replicate – particularly when it comes to sex.
O’Mahony and Coburn-Gray work wonderfully together in this carefully-scripted work that demands much from the performers. Coburn-Gray successfully blurs the line between human and android in her subtly robotic yet elegant performance while O’Mahony skillfully captures her character’s vulnerability and desperate need to justify her feelings for what is basically a household appliance.
'Love+' is both amusing yet challenging – deftly exploring our relationship with artificial intelligence. It speaks to the pending emotional void of a tech-driven society and ponders human sexuality, language and the boundaries of human and machine learning. It makes us think twice about our own emotions and our intimate relations and that can only be good.
'Love+' plays Theatre Republic until 14 September.