Entertainment Theater

‘Synthetic Flavors’ Evaluation: Blame ChatGPT for This Musical

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Synthetic intelligence can paint meddlesome monkeys, communicate within the basso profundo of James Earl Jones and play a tune to go well with a corridor of mirrors. However it could possibly’t write a musical that doesn’t really feel canned (at the very least, not but). That’s the argument put ahead by “Artificial Flavors,” a stay demonstration of A.I.’s artistic capabilities — and tedious limitations — at 59E59 Theaters.

The author and director Steve Cosson, the creative director of the restlessly curious company the Civilians, right here assumes the function of a considerably befuddled narrator, explaining that this undertaking was born from his late-night tinkering with packages like ChatGPT. Cosson, who says he’s not a performer, at occasions doesn’t appear to know the place to face or what to say subsequent. Whether or not or not it’s an act (and I believe that it’s), Cosson’s obvious insecurity supplies a stark distinction to the expertise he’s investigating.

Cosson solicits Mad Libs-style viewers enter to indicate that generative A.I. merely wants prompting and some seconds to spit out an unconvincing Picasso or write vaguely within the voice of Stephen King, examples projected on a display. Six actors then step in to carry out A.I.-generated skits, together with a scene between socialist comrades quibbling over a Birkin bag on the evening I attended. Cosson guarantees that every efficiency of “Synthetic Flavors” will culminate in a brand-new musical, with textual content written by ChatGPT and melodies composed on the spot by the Civilians and the onstage music director Dan Lipton.

The issue is that each instance of A.I.-generated content material continuing it portends how dangerous that musical will likely be. That appears to be Cosson’s level, although it turns into tiresome as his experiment balloons to 90 minutes. What scant humor A.I. produces right here is inadvertent and its metaphors are clichéd. (“We’re greater than gears, circuits and wires,” one early pattern lyric goes, “We’re the spark igniting untamed fires.”)

There’s ingenuity within the various parameters for a musical that Cosson feeds into ChatGPT, together with battle, setting and construction (for instance, a pie-eating contest at a beachside resort). However by Cosson’s design, A.I. is squarely guilty for the ensuing creative failure. The solid does spectacular impromptu work, singing on the fly and studying stay textual content from hand-held tablets. Michael Castillejos and Trey Lyford add lo-fi percussion to Lipton’s digital keyboard, whereas Heath Saunders seems to steer the ensemble’s unpolished vocals. However the songs and dialogue, although generated anew every evening, are little question persistently inane.

Theater artists are wrestling, like many others, with the quickly increasing energy of A.I. and its implications on the shape. In “Prometheus Firebringer” earlier this fall, the creator Annie Dorsen delivered an incisive lecture about human obedience to expertise alongside a haunting however prosaic illustration of its present capacities. Cosson, who says that A.I. and theater are each “within the enterprise of constructing faux life,” delivers one thing nearer to A.I. 101 earlier than reveling at how inept it’s at doing his job.

He could also be tipping the size with this anodyne, presentational staging (the workplace set, harking back to the Sims, is by the studio casaboyce) and through the use of the expertise solely to generate textual content, when it’s additionally able to extra complicated musical compositions and voice imitation. Nonetheless, his level stands: A.I. is proficient at producing “faux life,” however with out an artist’s subjectivity or standpoint. Sadly for the viewers, witnessing the boundaries of innovation comes with few rewards.

Synthetic Flavors
By way of Nov. 19 at 59E59 Theaters, Manhattan; 59e59.org. Operating time: 1 hour half-hour.