High Maintenance Review – Can You Tell the Difference Between a Robot and an Actor?

Christian Prentice and Ivy Khan in HIGH MAINTENANCE - Photo by Peggy McCartha
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A timely and clever comedy penned by Chicago-based author Peter Ritt, HIGH MAINTENANCE makes its world premiere at the Road Theatre in 2024. Ritt’s play was first given a staged reading at the Road Theatre Summer Playwrights Festival in 2023. Directed by Stan Zimmerman, known for his work in film, theater, and television, HIGH MAINTENANCE is fortunate to be the whippersnapper nurtured by two men experienced in comedy in all its forms.

Ivy Khan, Kris Frost, and Christian Prentice – Photo by Peggy McCartha

The time is now (or maybe even a little in the future), and the place is a small theater testing the limits of today’s technology. On to this small stage tumbles disgraced actor Laura Miller (Ivy Khan). Life has not been so kind to Laura, but her fall from grace is soon to be ended when she makes her comeback in Ibsen’s famed “A Doll’s House.” However, the production may prove difficult and without a doubt unusual: the role of her leading man will be assumed by Thesbot Prime (Tommy Dickie), a specially-crafted actor-robot programmed by his human creator Alan (Kris Frost). Will the audience realize that Thesbot is an AI generated actor? You’ll have to see the show to find out what happens in this bold experiment.

Ivy Khan and Merrick McCartha – Photo by Peggy McCartha

Zimmerman helms the production with skill, milking each and every joke to its fullest. The ensemble cast does a good job of making this sci-fi tale look real, with special kudos to Prentice, who is a painfully convincing robot-turned-actor. The play definitely looks at the “what-if” scenario of robots taking over the stage, especially current following the recent strikes which attempted to put limits and controls on the advance of AI technology in the industry.

Christian Prentice and Tommy Dickie – Photo by Peggy McCartha

The greatest strength of the play is its ability to poke fun at a very real threat to society as we know it while technology strides by leaps and bounds into every corner of our universe. The greatest weakness of the play may have been its “one’joke” skit-like approach. As such, it might have been more suitable to a sitcom or comedy/improv stage. While efforts to include ethical, moral, and legal considerations into the mix were apparent, they failed to make a strong overall impression and seemed at odds with the goal of “funny.” Perhaps the potentially serious aspects of the topic do not currently lend themselves to unbridled laughter. In any case, the beginning of the play was often uproarious – but slowly became somewhat repetitive as it wound its way towards the denouement. Nonetheless, it will prove thought-provoking in its implications.

Merrick McCartha, Ivy Khan, and Amy Tolsky – Photo by Peggy McCartha

HIGH MAINTENANCE runs through May 19, 2024, with performances at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and at 2 p.m. on Sundays through April 27, 2024. Performances continue in repertory beginning on April 28 and continuing through most of the week until May 19, 2024. Show times vary between 7 p.m. and 8 p.m. and include matinees at 2 p.m. on May 4, May 12 and May 19. Please contact the theater or go online for exact dates and times after April 21. The Road Theatre is located in the NoHo Senior Arts Colony, 10747 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood, CA. Tickets are $39 (students/seniors $20; Sunday performances Pay-What-You-Can). For information and reservations, call 818-761-8838 or go online.



  1. There are some errors in this review. The pictures credit Tommy Dickie when the actor that plays Roger is Christian Prentice. Prentice plays the robot turned actor Roger and Tommy Dickie plays thesbot prime. In the image with Ivy, Merrick and AMY TOLSKY the picture is credited to Alexis Ingram (who plays Sam and isn’t in the picture) Kris Frost is the creator but is not a robot.

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