Oh wow,” an audience member said as she stepped into the theater for Heartbeats & Algorithms. The world created by the light and the sound was palpable. The physical sensations continued as a torrent of social alerts and computer chimes hurled us into the opening of Jenny Lee’s captivating one-woman show. Lee, playwright and performer, plays Lucy Banks, a brilliant and successful coder who develops an algorithm that will learn to know you better than you know yourself because, as Banks tells us, “You are what you click.” Of course, this premise is even more timely today than in 2015 when the show was first performed at the Edinburgh Fringe.
The show alternates between Banks’s online world and her non-online world, with the lighting and sound orienting us as to where we are. Lee’s pacing and the ambient, pulsing sound were so effective that I was conscious of my heartbeat syncing to the rhythm in the room.
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As we inhabit the two worlds, Banks introduces us to the people in her life. While her descriptions were vivid, for the most part she was physically static and spoke from just one area of the stage. Still, Lee gives a confident, gripping performance. Online, she has her geek squad—fellow coders and hackers. Offline, her boyfriend, her boss, and other humans figure into her decision patterns. It’s all data and every choice she makes strengthens the algorithm. Banks is the subject of her own beta test and she becomes increasingly uneasy with the algorithm’s ability to predict every move she makes. When her boss gives her a deadline to release the algorithm, well, yet another choice has to be made.
Heartbeats & Algorithms closes July 27, 2019 Details and tickets
As audience members you’ll have choices too. When Banks asks you to do something, do it. You won’t regret it. By doing so, you will help us all feel connected, and maybe even free.
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