Vortex Repertory’s A Perfect Robot

Sarah Saltwick's timely script elegantly explores the tension between idealized automatons and messy humans

Ghost with the machine: Amelia Turner’s Mollybot (l) consults Joey Hood’s spirit of Alan Turing. (Photo by Errich Petersen)

Every man has an idea of what makes the perfect woman, and perhaps that's where the problem starts. In a world saturated with airbrushed images of the female form, lifeless sex dolls, and virtual pornography full of submissive and willing participants, men's visions of the ideal companion often skew into the unnatural and flat-out impossible.

However, in the Vortex Repertory Company's world premiere of A Perfect Robot, Diego (played by a very sincere Jesus I. Valles) is a roboticist who deals in the impossible. His creation, Mollybot, is not only a physical facsimile of a human woman, she is also the ultimate helpmeet – possessing artificial intelligence that passes the Turing Test (meaning that Mollybot exhibits behavior indistinguishable from a human being).

Shortly after the play begins, Diego frantically reprograms Mollybot and disappears – along with her personality. George, his lab and business partner (Trey Deason), is left alone to meet Daisy (Andreá Smith), a powerful investor who wishes to mass-produce Mollybot and put her on the market as a companion for men everywhere. But Mollybot is no longer herself. Her essence locked away in a password-protected file, she has been reduced to a very fancy version of Siri.

With Diego nowhere to be found, Daisy and George recruit Maddie (Diego's college girlfriend and the one that got away, played pitch-perfectly by Sarah Danko) to unlock Mollybot's AI file. As the specter of Alan Turing bears witness, Mollybot is mercilessly pummeled with the same directive ("Show us your best self") until, at last, the code is cracked, Mollybot's "soul" is restored, and Maddie comes face-to-face with a perfected version of herself – a version that can be owned.

Sarah Saltwick's script elegantly explores what happens when we reject the natural world for a perceived ideal and how the urge to control, buy, and sell women can replace the idea of love with the idea of possession. It is a timely work – this past weekend, we witnessed the largest mass protest on American soil from women who, after being subjected to generations of abuse, are standing strong and united, rejecting ownership, and demanding to be treated like equal human beings.

From beginning to end, A Perfect Robot is a perfect production. Ann Marie Gordon's sleek, spartan set gives way to captivating projections courtesy of video designer Eliot Gray Fisher, and David DeMaris' sound design adds layers of high-tech cacophony to the mix. Furthermore, under Rudy Ramirez's direction, every single performance is noteworthy. From Joey Hood's turn as Alan Turing (which features excellent accent work) to Amelia Turner's complete and pristine commitment to Mollybot, the ensemble weaves a technological dream turned heartbreak.

In a world of AI, RealDolls, and virtual girlfriends, A Perfect Robot is a morality tale that reminds women of the value of our glorious and messy imperfections, our ambitions, our passions, our intellect, and our dreams. They are what make us feel the most human. They are what make us truly beautiful, and embracing them sets us free.

A Perfect Robot

The Vortex, 2307 Manor Rd., 512/478-5282
Through Feb. 11
Running time: 2 hr.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 36 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Vortex Repertory Company
Vortex Repertory Company's <i>The Way She Spoke</i>
Vortex Repertory Company's The Way She Spoke
Isaac Gomez's drama made us remember the lost women of Juárez

Robert Faires, Jan. 26, 2018

The Murdered Women of Juárez Find a Voice Onstage
The Murdered Women of Juárez Find a Voice Onstage
Isaac Gomez's one-woman show The Way She Spoke

Rosalind Faires, Jan. 12, 2018

More Arts Reviews
ColdTowne’s <i>Missed Connections ATX</i>
ColdTowne’s Missed Connections ATX
The show improvised from actual Craigslist ads is as hilarious as it is oddly cathartic to the singles in the crowd

Shanon Weaver, March 16, 2018

“Katy Horan and Teruko Nimura: Residual” at ICOSA
“Katy Horan and Teruko Nimura: Residual” at ICOSA
In their joint show, the two artists use paper crafts as a medium for exploring how traces of the past disrupt the present

Melany Jean, March 16, 2018

More by T. Lynn Mikeska
UT Department of Theatre & Dance's <i>Enron</i>
UT Department of Theatre & Dance's Enron
This production of Lucy Prebbles' play smartly recounts and reframes the corporate beast's rise and fall

March 2, 2018

Zach Theatre's <i>The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time</i>
Zach Theatre's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
This dazzling production takes us inside the mind of a crime-solving teen on the spectrum

Feb. 16, 2018


Vortex Repertory Company, Sarah Saltwick, Rudy Ramirez, Jesus I. Valles, Amelia Turner, Joey Hood, Andreá Smith, Trey Deason, Sarah Danko, Ann Marie Gordon, Eliot Gray Fisher, David DeMaris

AC Daily, Events and Promotions, Luvdoc Answers

Breaking news, recommended events, and more

Official Chronicle events, promotions, and giveaways

Updates for SXSW 2017

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle