Adam Trainsmith (Ciaran Volke), who discovers that although android Jacie Triplethree (Una Rekic) can use language she never learned to read, teaches her the Bible in a hotel room. Comic Potential, Alan Ayckbourn’s wickedly funny satire on the rise of artificial intelligence runs until Feb. 22 at the Phoenix Theatre. Photo by Dean Kalyan

Adam Trainsmith (Ciaran Volke), who discovers that although android Jacie Triplethree (Una Rekic) can use language she never learned to read, teaches her the Bible in a hotel room. Comic Potential, Alan Ayckbourn’s wickedly funny satire on the rise of artificial intelligence runs until Feb. 22 at the Phoenix Theatre. Photo by Dean Kalyan

REVIEW: UVic drama department shows a flair for comedy

Student actors have fun with artificial intelligence in Alan Ayckbourn’s Comic Potential

There’s a lot of information to process in the opening act of the UVic Department of Theatre’s Comic Potential, the Alan Ayckbourn-written comedy in a 10-day run at the Phoenix Theatre.

With various characters coming and going, it pays to read up a little on the story line first to get a head start on the premise.

In a nutshell, it centres around a more-human-than-not android TV actor – she and her acting counterparts are collectively referred to as “actoids” – whose programming somehow prompts her to go off-script and laugh involuntarily. Her person-ality leads to a wide variety of comedic interactions and relationships with other characters and the story builds from there.

Actoid Jacie Triplethree (Una Rekic) is plugged in for analysis to determine what programming glitch makes her laugh hysterically onset of the daytime TV hospital soap opera. Photo by Dean Kalyan

Una Rekic is instantly likeable as the actoid Jacie Triplethree (a name derived from her product number), who shows a good-natured ability to have fun and interact intelligently with humans, despite her android makeup. Throughout the play, Rekic skilfully shifts gears, performing melodramatic lines that Jacie has stored in her memory banks from past roles, which come out rather randomly and add to the character’s appeal.

In the role of the eventual male lead Adam Trainsmith, Ciaran Volke does well playing the eager-to-please nephew of the wealthy network owner. As the story unfolds, Adam’s passion for film and writing emerge, as does his increasing willingness to treat Jacie as not only an actor with true comic potential, but as a human with the potential to love him back.

The first act ends with a flourish when Trainsmith and Jacie, whose developing professional relationship has become more “person-al,” find themselves together alone in the studio. When Jacie says she’d like to dance – she has a program for that, too – Rekic and Volke perform an outstanding swing routine.

RELATED: ‘Actoids’ hit the stage at UVic’s Phoenix Theatre in February

Act 1 truly lays the groundwork for Act 2, when Trainsmith and Jacie escape to a hotel, with stops at a dress shop and a fancy restaurant – comparisons to Pygmalion or My Fair Lady here are natural.

A memorable scene happens at dinner, when Jacie’s internal liquid storage system fills up. Adam volunteers to go “under the hood” to surreptitiously remove her full container and the result is hilariously spiced with sexual innuendo.

Among supporting cast members, Carter Gulseth is convincing as former big-time film director Chandler Tate, now relegated to overseeing actoid daytime TV productions. He adeptly portrays Tate’s transformation from a jaded individual who wistfully recalls past days of glory and his deep understanding of comedy, to someone whose inspiration is rekindled through the spunk and energy of Jacie and the professional commitment of Trainsmith.

Sarah Hunsberger gives a solid performance as social-climbing regional director Carla Pepperbloom, whose over-the-top and impatient character provides a perfect foil for the creative folks in the story.

While this Conrad Alexandrowicz-directed play takes some time to get going and for the story line to develop, the journey proved satisyfying, thanks to impressive primary and supporting performances.

Comic Potential runs through Feb. 22 at the Phoenix Theatre at UVic. Showtimes are 8 p.m., plus a 2 p.m. matinee runs Feb. 22. There is no show Sunday or Monday. Tickets are available online at

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

comedyLive theatreUVic

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Nanaimo author Haley Healey recently launched her second book, ‘Flourishing and Free: More Stories of Trailblazing Women of Vancouver Island.’ (Photo courtesy Kristin Wenberg)
Nanaimo author pens second book on ‘trailblazing’ Vancouver Island women

Haley Healey’s ‘Flourishing and Free’ follows her 2020 debut ‘On Their Own Terms’

Saanich author Hannalora Leavitt hopes her new book, This Disability Experience, helps to dispel the ‘otherness’ that often surrounds people with disabilities. (Jane Skrypnek/News Staff)
Vancouver Island author demystifying disability and dismantling otherness

Hannalora Leavitt, who lives with a visual impairment, wants to change how people look at disability

Michael Demers, performing here as a member of The Lonely, died May 1 after a year-long battle with leukemia. (Photo by Benji Duke)
Victoria music community mourning Michael Demers

Veteran singer-songwriter, co-founder of The Lonely dies at 63 due to leukemia

The Royal B.C. Museum has added a tamba dining set, used by a Punjabi man on his voyage to Canada in 1927, to its ‘100 Objects of Interest’ online collection. (Courtesy of Royal B.C. Museum)
Punjabi dining set added to Royal B.C. Museum’s ‘100 Objects of Interest’ collection

Set used by Indar Singh Gill on his voyage from Punjab to Canada in 1927

Victoria-born musician Bryce Dane Soderberg took to Instagram Monday to call out the Greater Victoria School District on its proposed cuts to elementary and middle school music programs. (Bryce Dane Soderberg/Instagram)
Victoria-born Lifehouse vocalist calls out SD61 on proposed music cuts

‘It will be a big loss to future generations’ Bryce Dane Soderberg posted to his Instagram

Musqueam and Qualicum First Nations artist, Mathew Andreatta, next to several of his ongoing projects, including carvings and illustrations. (Submitted photo)
Island artist considers art a means to reconnect with his Indigenous identity

Andreatta thought of TOSH as a space of learning and creation

Nicolle Nattrass and Michael Armstrong are presenting an online reading on May 9. (Photos courtesy Joni Marcolin/Heather Armstrong)
Nanaimo playwrights present online Mother’s Day script readings

Nicolle Nattrass and Michael Armstrong to read from in-progress plays

Marianne Turley is one of this year’s City of Nanaimo Culture and Heritage Award winners for Honour in Culture. (Bulletin file photo)
Longtime Vancouver Island Symphony board member gets posthumous culture award

Marianne Turley receives City of Nanaimo Culture and Heritage Award for Honour in Culture

The CVAC Fine Arts Show is always something to see and 2021 promises to be no different, as they adopt a fully multimedia approach. (File photo)
Cowichan Valley Fine Arts Show goes multimedia for 2021

The show, which runs from May 1-22 will be available both in person and online.

Dinner After a Death, a painting by Sooke artist Bryan Cathcart is part of a collection featuring his work at the Outsiders and Others Gallery in Vancouver. (Contributed - Bryan Cathcart)
Sooke artist finds creativity by expanding artistic horizons

Bryan Cathcart, 26, featured at Vancouver gallery

Viking-inspired fantasy writer Joshua Gillingham of Nanaimo and Seattle-based Islamic science fiction editor Muhammad Aurangzeb Ahmad are co-editing ‘Althingi – The Crescent and the Northern Star.’ (Photos submitted, illustration by Lada Shustova/Figue)
Nanaimo author co-editing historical anthology connecting Vikings and Muslims

Joshua Gilligham presents ‘Althingi – The Crescent and the Northern Star’

Saltair-based writer, Krista May. (Janet Kelly photo)
Island writers make long-list for 2021 CBC Short Story Prize

Krista May and Angie Ellis among 33 finalists selected out of over 3,000 entrants

Most Read