Has a clever tongue sewn in its mouth
The new robot is called Alan (after Alan Turing) and the mechanics behind her creation are given as much detail as the creature is in Mary Shelley’s original story – which is to say, almost none whatsoever. And whereas in Frankenstein the eponymous scientist immediately rejected his creation in revulsion, the creator in Data Night takes great pains to be a mother figure to her little monster. Along the way, as you may imagine, daughter is able to teach mother as much as the other way around.
Koch and Brinkworth say a couple of times – both at the start and end of the hour – that theirs is a ‘baby’ show, and that they welcome any feedback. Like any new parents, they’re clearly equal parts proud and nervous. It’s true that the story is a little scrappy around the edges: both performances are occasionally a little cautious, and it feels like the work needs more rehearsal and tighter direction. But for the most part, this is largely irrelevant, because what’s actually on stage is beamingly good fun, and both performers are hugely charismatic (the show is most fun when they break the narrative logic, or directly address the audience). Crucially, the script is very sharp, stuffed with plenty of good jokes about the Bechdel test and displaying friendship by being mean.
Even more crucially, most of the gags are unashamedly and unapologetically aimed at an audience that will be pretty much exactly like the women themselves: references to Etsy shops and She’s All That abound. And while there’s a leaning towards arch, knowing jokes (putting the ‘meta’ into meta-data), the plot even finds time to be genuinely moving.
In short, like any Frankenstein’s creature, it’s pretty much all here, and it won’t take much to stitch on what’s still needed. The show moves along well, and has a clever tongue sewn in its mouth: there’s a very decent, slyly knowing script and two extremely engaging performers who work a lot better when they momentarily forget that they’re on stage. With only a little bit more stagecraft and more confidence, this is a beast that deserves to be resurrected. Plus, the script itself could benefit from another fifteen minutes bolted on: and frankly, how often do you hear that on the fringe?