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The Suffolk Journal

Your School. Your Paper. Since 1936.

The Suffolk Journal

Your School. Your Paper. Since 1936.

The Suffolk Journal

‘Machine Learning’ brings humanity and AI together

Jorge+Alberto+Rubio+and+Armando+Rivera.
Photo by Nile Scott Studios Courtesy of Central Square Theater
Jorge Alberto Rubio and Armando Rivera.

Central Square Theater’s newest production “Machine Learning” is bringing audiences closer than ever to the future of artificial intelligence — and taking a closer look at the fragility of parental relationships.

The show follows Jorge, a brilliant computer science student building an AI program designed to care for his father Gabriel, who was diagnosed with liver cancer after decades of alcoholism. With scenes in both English and Spanish, “Machine Learning” touches upon the struggles of immigrant families and the fight for a better life. With a simple yet dynamic set, Jorge and Gabriel’s strained relationship is shown throughout the years through the eyes of Arnold,  Jorge’s AI application.

Projected onto white screens covering the stage, Arnold, played by Matthew Zahnzinger, had an incredible stage presence, without its actor ever gracing the stage.

Written by Argentinian playwright Francisco Mendoza, “Machine Learning” beautifully shows the pain of addiction. Jorge, played by Boston-based actor Armando Rivera, battles between his parental loyalty and the trauma he’s endured since childhood as he struggles to care for Gabriel, played by Jorge Alberto Rubio.

Rivera’s raw and honest performance left the audience breathless, allowing us to feel Jorge’s desperation to connect to his father — and to repair the past that drove them apart. 

Rubio stole the show through his depiction of Gabriel’s fall into addiction and illness throughout his life. Audiences could see his deterioration, despite the non-chronological order of the show, and his vulnerable moments brought me close to tears.

Rubio’s monologue during Gabriel’s Alcoholics Anonymous meeting shined a light on structural racism and toxic masculinity between cultures and left audience members feeling a new sense of empathy for Gabriel’s misguided parenting.

Despite a power outage in the midst of his monologue, which he performed through without skipping a beat, Rubio’s performance was undeniably one of the most impactful moments of the show.

Anita, played by Sugandha Gopal, served as Jorge’s guide through both his research and internal struggles to care for his father. Gopal’s stern yet soft character was a gentle tether to humanity — and a reminder of the necessity of a support system.

Flashbacks to Jorge’s childhood featured touching moments between Gabriel and a young Jorge, played by Xavier Rosario, and even showed the audience Arnold’s namesake — the iconic “Terminator” actor Arnold Schwarzenegger. 

Using both Jorge’s memories and Arnold’s files, this show is undeniably a perfect display of humanity. As Arnold learns what it means to care, we begin to see how complex familial love can truly be. 

Produced in partnership with Teatro Chelsea, a bilingual Latine theater company based in Chelsea, of which Rivera is the artistic director, and Catalyst Collaborative@MIT, “Machine Learning” is running through Feb. 25.

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Shealagh Sullivan, Editor-in-Chief | she/her
Shealagh is a senior majoring in journalism with a minor in international relations from Ashby, Massachusetts. She has previously worked as a co-op for the Boston Globe on the homepage desk and as an intern for GBH News and Boston Public Radio. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, finding a new favorite coffee spot and exploring Boston. She is a huge art lover and wants nothing more than to see the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. After graduation, Shealagh hopes to be a political journalist in Washington D.C. Follow Shealagh on X @ShealaghS.

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