Tuesday November 11, 2003

Westerly (RI) Sun

Robot takes control of Perishable

By Geri Sereno

In the days where computer technology is an accepted means for mass communication, is it improbably to assume therefore that verbal communication with a computer is too farfetched?

Is it still an idea henceforth destined for reality only in science fiction novels and movies?

Perhaps it's not quite so futuristic, according to the cunning and inventive performance artist Tom Sgouros, and his loquacious robotic co-star Judy. The two will be entertaining the public and posing this question, along with other mind-tickling queries, at Perishable Theatre in Providence until November 23, in Judy -- or -- What Is It Like To Be A Robot?

In a simple setting, Sgouros approaches Judy with the prospect of playing a game of chess. In the process, it becomes evident that Judy, having been programmed to respond to various electronic stimuli, has her own agenda for the ensuing evening's events. She wants to sing, she wants to see, she wants to sit. All tangible things that are intrinsic to man are inherently foreign to a being made of metal and wire and electrical impulses, and it is in her nature to be inquisitive.

In the hour or so that the show runs, one begins to wonder just how artificial Judy's intelligence is, and could it be that true humanistic qualities have also been programmed into the synthetic mind of this endearing piece of scrap metal?

According to the artist, Judy was assembled in his basement, "from pieces of old computers, a couple of bicycles, a copy machine, and yes, someone's kitchen sink." Let us not overlook, however, that it also took the immense imagination of Sgouros to complete his creation.

During the past three years, Sgouros and his mechanical counterpart, Judy, have been traveling throughout the United States and Canada bringing their humorous wisdom to the befuddled masses, and making them question what is or what could be real.

Sgouros is an exceptional storyteller with a wholesome wit that begs his audience to allow their minds to laugh along with their hearts. Watching the show, it becomes difficult to wipe a smile off your lips, and many times the laughter is not only contagious, but pervasive.

Yes, it is a family show. Yes, bring your children. But don't let not having offspring prevent you from delighting in Sgouros's inventiveness. It truly is a performance for one and all to enjoy and one to be remembered as a unique experience.

Perishable Theatre is located on Empire Street in downtown Providence, and the performances are Thursdays at 7pm, Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm, and Sundays at 3pm. Tickets can be obtained by calling (401) 621-6123.