Credit: joe mazza

When it comes to dystopian science fiction, the most ingenious conceit can be done in by the tiniest flaw in plausibility (unless you’re writing the Hunger Games trilogy, in which case no one bothers to care). So perhaps playwright Kim Z. Dale’s most impressive achievement in her dark high-tech fantasy is its airtight logic. Billionaire mogul Dr. Westmore is offering implanted “brain enhancements” to those who’ll sign over the rights to their future augmented mentations, and brilliant computer scientist Claudine, dead-ended in the unchallenging coding job she accepted years ago to make room in her life for motherhood, incautiously signs up for the procedure, hoping that she’ll finally reach her full potential by creating the perfect encrypting algorithm. It’s a tight, focused tale with artfully deployed classic sci-fi tropes potent with contemporary anxieties about human autonomy in a world of endlessly multiplying virtual identities.

At the same time, the script’s inordinately strict logic is its greatest weakness. Dale’s world is so narrowly delineated that few options exist for her characters (Westmore believes in almost nothing but science, and Claudine can’t imagine fulfillment from anything except cryptology), making most everything feel preordained. Complications that arise are telegraphed long in advance, and those that aren’t end up being largely superfluous. For this Plagiarists premiere, director Jen Poulin has assembled an astute, passionate cast, but they spend most of their 100 minutes together in a world that needs far more uncertainty to be truly menacing.   v