DATA Production Still

DATA featured in The New York Times

The New York Times just called DATA "90 minutes of ticktock action, forwarded in snappy dialogue [with] the feel of a well-paced television procedural... the payoff is exciting, in an Aaron Sorkin meets Michael Lewis way." 

"That moment when people realize how precariously they claim space in the world is a turning point in “Data,” produced by the Alliance Theatre and this year’s winner of the Alliance/Kendeda competition for playwrights in graduate school. In this case, the playwright, Matthew Libby, had the requisite background not only in drama but also in high-tech, which is both the subject of the play and the way it got rescued when the pandemic foreclosed on a live, staged production.

The tech also provides a neat visual counterpoint to the story of Maneesh (Cheech Manohar), a programmer at a data-mining company called Athena. When he is asked to transfer to a unit developing a secret algorithm for predicting terrorist acts against the United States government, Maneesh is forced to weigh the benefits to himself against the potential harm to others. The others are immigrants — including Maneesh’s own parents.

If that’s too neat of a setup, it’s hardly science fiction; real-world cases involving data-mining behemoths like Palantir and Cambridge Analytica have raised similar concerns. In any case, the payoff is exciting, in an Aaron Sorkin meets Michael Lewis way. As directed by Susan V. Booth, the Alliance’s artistic director, the production leaps headlong past its problems. Certainly its 90 minutes of ticktock action, forwarded in snappy dialogue between Maneesh and two colleagues — one principled (Clare Latham) and one not (Jake Berne) — has the feel of a well-paced television procedural.

Better than television, though, is the disorienting effect of the green screen technology, which allows the actors, who were actually 10 to 20 feet apart while filming, to appear together, even in endless games of table tennis. As you wonder how the effect was achieved you are brought up short by the contrast with the content: What does it mean when ethics becomes a kind of trick and a game?"

— "Three Dramas Explore the Margins of the Digital Form," Jesse Green for The New York Times

Read the full feature here.

Due to popular demand, DATA has been extended through June 6. Stream the show on-demand here.


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