Almonte playwright Jacob Berkowitz’ latest work, premiering later this month, is a futuristic family drama that explores the powerful psychological role new technologies can play in our individual and familial lives.
In The Anniversary, Ottawa lawyer Evelyn Carlyle has married the perfect man, albeit a social robot, and created her ideal family using reproductive technologies. But when her three adult children return home to celebrate their parents’ 30th anniversary, unresolved family dynamics of control, identity and individual agency come to life. Adam, the husband, is played by former Almonte resident Hugh Neilson.
“My work explores the subtle intersection of science and technology with human connection, of our desire to connect and be connected and how hard this can be in the modern world,” says Berkowitz, who’s also a science writer.
He says that the idea for the play emerged five years ago after watching peoples’ instinctive responses to the humanoid robot Robothespian.
“So much of our interactions with one another, including robots, occurs below consciousness, for example all of the bonding between infants and parents. We’re still trying to understand the biological basis of mind even as we’re beginning to create social robots,” says Berkowitz.
Director Kevin Orr is staging the show in-the-round—something only possible in Ottawa with the LabO Theatre’s modern, flexible seating.
“This show is a powerful family drama–audience members are going to be immersed in it, in the way we actually are with families,” says Orr, a theatre professor at the University of Ottawa and founder of Theatre 4.669, a new play incubator that nurtured The Anniversary’s development.
Berkowitz’ last play Entangled was nominated for a 2019 Prix Rideau best play award, and in 2021 the National Arts Centre’s English Theatre developed Entangled into a radio drama, broadcast nationally.
Show times, venue info. and tickets, here