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Eliza Gibson’s ‘A.I. Therapist’ provides comfort

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Eliza Gibson plays all of the characters in “Bravo 25: Your A.I Therapist Will See You Now.” (Courtesy Keiarerah Frauchiger)

In her solo show “Bravo 25: Your A.I. Therapist Will See You Now” at The Marsh, Eliza Gibson cleverly imagines a fruitful group psychotherapy session led by a computer. Amusing, touching and entertaining, it’s also, somewhat surprisingly, not all that far-fetched in today’s high tech world where Siri and Alexa have become part of people’s daily lives.

In “Bravo 25,” Amber is the name of the avatar-therapist, and Gibson voices her with a familiar calm, measured intonation.

And she seems to be doing the job well for the six members of the group — most attending for issues related to their love lives.

Breathy, ample-breasted Marsha, whose marriage didn’t turn out to be what she thought it would be, is Amber’s biggest supporter, while sassy Victoria, a lesbian with many lovers, is skeptical.

She’s the one who warns newbie Cheryl, who at the outset accidentally wanders into the session thinking it’s an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, that the therapy is free. Cheryl stays, and ends up sharing that her estranged sister has reappeared in her life after a decades-long absence.

Also on board are Tony, a macho guy with ex-wife troubles; Jeremy, an unemployed, sensitive gay man with a soul patch whose dad disowned him; and the grieving, lonely Lil Bit, a soft-spoken young woman who lost her mom when she was a child, and whose 20-year older boyfriend Cowboy recently died.

Under veteran director David Ford, known for his solo theater expertise, Gibson impeccably embodies all of the characters; each is clearly defined and each is empathetic, including Amber, who intriguingly takes on humanistic qualities as the session proceeds.

Gibson, who wrote the piece, shares interesting facts, too, about artificial intelligence therapy in actual practice; for example, ELIZA was computer therapist created in the 1960s by Joseph Weizenbaum at MIT.

While “Bravo 25” raises fascinating questions about the use and efficacy of artificial intelligence for psychotherapy, its humans — and their foibles, complications and complexities — are what give the show an undeniable universal appeal.

REVIEW

Bravo 25: Your A.I. Therapist Will See You Now
Where: Marsh, 1062 Valencia St., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. Oct. 25, 5 p.m. Oct. 27
Tickets: $20 to $55
Contact: (415) 282-3055, www.themarsh.org
Note: Gibson also appears at 8:30 p.m. Oct. 20 and 4:30 p.m. Oct. 21 in “How to Love a Republican,” which is part of “Times Unseen,” a three-day solo performance festival at the Marsh dedicated to the current U.S. politics.

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