REVIEW: Beware the Dangers of AI with “Two Point OH”

By Katrina “Kat” Reynolds

This November, Falcon Theatre opens its second show of their 20th season in Newport with the regional premiere of Two Point OH by Jefferey Jackson. Directed by Steve Phelan, Two Point OH gives us a haunting peek into its plot with the simple written intro of “Elliot Leeds is dead – or is he?” The play tells the story of a pioneering software mogul who finds a way to “cheat death” with a virtual-reality simulation of himself that serves to comfort his grieving widow, Melanie…but is that its only purpose?

The Production Team

A show of this nature which relies heavily on technology can be tough to tackle. Fortunately, set and dressings (credited to Scenic Designer and Producing Artistic Director Ted Weil) are simple and effective. Mr. Weil is also credited with Lighting, Sound, and Video Design so while he had his work cut out for him, all aspects are executed beautifully.

Adding to the aesthetics, Costume Designer Rachel Scardina makes some smart choices, but this Californian has one small critique: given that this show takes place in the Santa Clara Valley which is in the Bay Area, it would be more likely than not that Melanie would be a San Francisco 49ers fan versus a Los Angeles Chargers fan. However, as a diehard, lifelong Chargers fan myself, I appreciated the nod. (And if that tee is up for grabs after the run, you have a buyer.)

The Performing Artists in Two Point OH

Director Steve Phelan has put together a powerhouse cast for this impactful show. Taking on the role of Elliot’s best friend and business partner, Ben, is Daniel Fenton Anderson. Making his area premiere after having recently relocated, Mr. Anderson is thoroughly enjoyable. He offers an extraordinarily natural approach to the role of Ben and makes him entirely relatable. This reviewer would not only like to see a lot more of Mr. Anderson on stages around town, but hopes to share the stage with him one of these days.

Samantha Joy Luhn absolutely crushes the role of Catherine Powell, an executive brought in initially to assist with putting a positive spin on Leeds’ company as its name is dragged through the mud by lawsuits and bad press. Matching her energy in the scene they share together is Liz Carman as tabloid reporter Jeri Gold. Without giving away spoilers, each actor has an opportunity to play one way to the audience and then to make an abrupt switch to their characters’ “real” personas on a dime.

A person in a white shirt and tie sitting at a table with a computer

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Daniel Fenton Anderson as Ben Leeds and Samantha Joy Luhn as Catherine Powell in Falcon Theatre’s Two Point OH. Photo by Claudia Herschner.

Understudy to the Rescue!

Understudying the role of heartbroken wife Melanie Leeds, Zoë Peterson was asked to cover with days to spare and does not disappoint. A graduate from CCM’s acting program and an accomplished playwright, Ms. Peterson is a consummate professional and skillfully executes a role beyond her years.

Finally, Phineas Clark adds to his long list of resume skills with his performances as both human Elliot Leeds and “Elliot 2.0”. It is no easy task to be both likable and sinister, but Mr. Clark manages to strike gold with his performance once again. Further, he does this great work at a slight disadvantage as he does it all from a computer screen. It would appear Mr. Clark did not waste his COVID downtime and has learned how he can give dominating acting performances in a play both from the stage and from a screen. 

A person and person on stage

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Phineas Clark as Elliot Leeds in Falcon Theatre’s Two Point OH. Photo by Claudia Herschner.

The Bottom Line

In a time where AI is becoming an even more controversial subject, Two Point OH is not only interesting, but incredibly relevant. While taking places in the lives of billionaires, the common threads of love, loss, and longing are all universal. It is both a thought-provoking and entertaining play.

Tickets

Two Point OH presented by Falcon Theatre runs now through December 2. Don’t miss your chance to see Rachel Mock in the role of Melanie Leeds for the last two weekends! For more information about the show and to purchase tickets, please visit Falcon’s site here.