WHAT Explores Intersection Of Tech, Family In ‘Smart’

by Jennifer Sexton-Riley

Smart home devices have gone from the wild imaginings of science fiction writers to accepted parts of our everyday lives in a few short years. They simplify and increase the convenience of many aspects of our home lives, from playing our favorite songs to turning our lights on and off or even ordering meals to be delivered to our doorsteps. But what if our smart devices are enabling strangers to listen in on our private conversations, sharing aspects of our lives that we take for granted as private, or even providing a random person with the ability to invade our lives in ways we never imagined?

Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theater (WHAT) opens the 2024 season with “Smart” by playwright Mary Elizabeth Hamilton, directed by Jess Chayes. “Smart” is a fascinating exploration of the reasons we allow new technologies into our most private spaces, and the unexpected changes that such technologies may bring.

Elaine’s ill and aging mother, Ruth, won’t allow aides into the house to assist her, making it extremely difficult for Elaine to attend to the other obligations in her life, including her job. Hoping for a solution to her dilemma, Elaine buys a “Jenny,” a smart device which promises to act as a sort of companion for Ruth, while also providing Elaine with the ability to check on her mother throughout the day. It sounds like the problem is solved, right? Not quite. What if Elaine is not the only one listening in? “Smart” explores the modern situations which force us to consider such technological solutions to very human problems, and the unexpected developments that may occur when we do.

“‘Smart’ struck me for its beautifully rendered complex characters caught in an incredibly relatable situation,” said WHAT’s Producing Artistic Director Christopher Ostrom. “As the relentless march of technological innovation progresses, what do we sacrifice when adopting the convenience of AI and smart devices? What is the cost of being always connected in the digital age?”

“Smart” debuted off-Broadway at the Ensemble Studio Theatre in spring 2023. The WHAT production brings actors Christine Farrell and Kea Trevett, who portrayed Ruth and Elaine, respectively, in the play’s Off-Broadway debut, along with the original scenic designer Ant Ma, to WHAT’s Julie Harris Stage to open the 2024 season.

“Smart” takes the WHAT stage from June 8 to 24, with previews on June 6 and 7, featuring Christine Farrell as Ruth, Kea Trevett as Elaine and Blair Baker as Gabby, with scenic design by Ant Ma, costume design by Amy Sutton, lighting design by Christina Watanabe, sound design by ien DeNio, and with production stage manager Katie Scarlett Graves. For tickets visit what.org or call the box office at 508-349-9428.