THE VIRTUAL FAMILY at TAFE-Théâtre Arts for all

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The virtual family, Jeremy Johnson’s first published play, explores the intricacies of a world so dependent on technology. Released amid the Covid-19 pandemic, this piece is humorous and utterly relatable. Until July 5, the public can enjoy a production of The virtual family virtually. Directed by Gina Wagner, this TAFE (Theatre for All) production features a talented cast and crew ranging in age from 10 to 77! The virtual family is a series of skits that can be performed as a complete show. It tells the story of a family – mom, dad, grandmother, son, daughter, cat and kitten – examining their relationships with each other and with technology.

The first scene is one of the funniest. In this scene, Mom, played by Jennifer DiMercurio, interacts with AALIX, played by Sofia DiMercurio. AALIX is an artificial intelligence, like Alexa, which can search for information, play music, etc. Sofia DiMercurio maintains a perfectly flat affect, showing no emotion in her face or robotic voice – no small feat! Hilarity ensues as Mom, looking for a recipe for turkey meatballs, talks to AALIX as if she were a real person and AALIX continually misunderstands Mom’s commands. Jennifer DiMercurio uses her facial expressions and vocal tone to express the frustrations we all know about technology that doesn’t always work the way we think it does. It’s a brilliant scene that’s delightful to watch in the hands of the DiMercurios.

As the play progresses, we meet dad (Montez Ritter), grandmother (Priscilla McFerren), son (Kalil Nasrani), daughter (Talia Lamb), cat (Rosie Gray) and kitten (Anne Gray). Ritter delivers all of his “dad jokes” with excellent comedic timing. He particularly shines in his scene with Toothbrush, played by Haven Simmons. Yes, that’s right, Toothbrush. Dad gets an app that allows him to interview electric toothbrushes to replace the broken one. Simmons shows off his comedy chops as his character takes on three different personas in an attempt to get dad to make a purchase.

McFerren portrays Grandma, who does pretty well with technology, but sometimes needs help from her grandchildren. McFerren showcases Grandma’s enthusiasm for Pinterest in such a way that it’s infectious, and audiences will certainly understand her confusion over the intricacies of technology. Nasrani’s son is so down-to-earth in his extreme irritation at being the tech guru for his family that parents and grandparents watching him will be ready to ground him on the spot.

The girl is one of the more complex characters, as she talks about her feelings about virtual school and being isolated from her friends. Lamb gives a wonderfully nuanced performance, making Daughter one of the show’s most relevant characters. One of Daughter’s funniest scenes is her disastrous exercise session with Mom and Fab. Fab, performed by Crystal Ganong, is a virtual exercise program. Ganong infuses the character with great energy, and Daughter’s reactions when Fab scolds her for slacking off are hilarious.

Rosie and Anne Gray represent the family pets – Cat and Kitten. Between their costumes and their feline mannerisms (like paw licking), it’s easy to think of them as cats. Cat has a wonderful scene with Bobert. Bobert is a cleaning robot, similar to Roomba. When Cat worries about whether Bobert might be trying to get his tail, her expression is nothing short of endearing. Matt Bahn takes on the role of Bobert. Bahn does a great job of portraying the full gamut of Bobert’s personality – from excitement and joy in serving to crushing, overworked and in need of maintenance.

Throughout the show, the cast brings out the complex relationship between people and technology – our addiction to it, our frustrations with it, and our need to part with it at times. This family show will have audiences laughing in their own living room. Visit www.tafepa.org for tickets to this production online as well as information on upcoming auditions and performances for their return to in-person shows.


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