Half Life, the new play by mathematician/playwright John Mighton that opens in previews tonight at the Tarragon, is not a memory play – but it is a play about remembering and forgetting. It takes place an old folks home where an elderly man is reacquainted with an old flame from before the war. The couple falls back in love, but their respective children are sceptical that the two ever knew each other at all before they met in the home.
You may remember brainy Mighton from his plays about cybersexuality (Body and Soul), alternative universes (Possible Worlds) and time (The Little Years) — or perhaps you know him for his cameo as a grad student in Good Will Hunting, a movie he was a math consultant on.
Though his plays won Governor General’s awards and Doras, critics repeatedly took Mighton – who lives in Toronto’s little Korea – to task for being too cerebral and ignoring human emotions. Disillusioned, he left the theatre nine years ago to complete a Ph.D in math — he is currently doing his post-doctoral research on knot theory and graph theory at the Fields Institute — and was only lured back thanks to encouragement from uberdirectors Daniel Brooks (who is at the helm of Half Life) and Robert Lepage.
Judging from a workshop production Torontoist saw last year at Passe Muraille, Half Life could be Mighton’s most emotionally-satisfying and well-balanced work to grace the rhombus-shaped platform we call the stage. There’s hardly any theoretical musing in it at all… Well, except for the fact that one of the main characters is a judge in a Loebner Prize-esque Turing Test competition where computer scientists try to create artificial intelligence. But, for the scientophobic, that little fact is easily forgotten.