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Truth Quotient, The

Entry updated 13 August 2014. Tagged: Theatre.

Performance (2013; vt This Rough Magic). Written by Richard Manly; directed by Eric Parness; produced by Resonance Ensemble; featuring Jarel Davidow, Angelina Fiordellisi, Meredith Howard, Brian Tom O'Connor, Shaun Bennet Wilson and Maxwell Zener. Samuel Beckett Theatre, New York City, 9 January 2013.

In Richard Manly's The Truth Quotient, what is real and what is true come to the fore in the story of billionaire entrepreneur David (Davidow). David has purchased extremely sophisticated AIs from the Nureál company – his first, girlfriend Caprice (Howard), has been followed by models of his parents (O'Connor and Fiordellisi). Rachel (Wilson), an account executive with Nureál, has been assigned to assist him with transitioning and making certain that David is getting the most out of his "new" family. This is disrupted by a visit from David's estranged elder brother, Donald (Zener). David and Donald used to be close as children, bonding together in the face of an alcoholic father and a disinterested mother, but Donald didn't know the extent of his brother's abuse at the hands of their father. This unhappy childhood is the impetus behind David's impulse to create the happy family he always imagined but never had.

Donald, who is dying of cancer, lies to his brother about his remission and has come to see if he might be able to live with David. Rachel, armed with the vast search engines and Internet information available through this Near Future's social network engineering, knows everything about both David and Donald. She knows that Donald is lying and that he offers a threat to David's fragile new-found happiness, and to her account. Donald is appalled by his brother's AIs and insists that David is deluding himself; but when confronted, David chooses his new family over Donald. Donald leaves, and in the final scene, David opens a box from Donald's estate, and Rachel interrupts a significant personal moment, diverting it, by giving David a "present" – an AI of his now deceased brother.

The title of the play becomes apparent from an explanation Rachel gives to David, who questions whether or not Caprice actually feels anything, even her love for him. Rachel outlines how young children until age three or four simply don't lie. They are very direct in what they want. Around age four, they learn to lie by engaging in polite social lies – like please and thank you. Nureál has taken this into account and made a truth quotient scale with one being absolute truth and ten being absolute lies. They have set their AIs at five, meaning that David will have to decide whether or not Caprice is telling the truth – just as he would for any human in a similar situation.

The Truth Quotient won the New England Theatre Conference John Gassner Memorial Playwriting Award in October 2012. [JGu]

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