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Does Not Compute

Technology runs amok in slapstick take on world domination.

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Playwright Eric Coble is an armchair politician with a twisted sense of humor. So it's only fitting that his latest play, T.I.D.Y., would put a no-nonsense computer programmer in the middle of a slapstick plot about world domination in -- of all places -- Cleveland.

"I love the idea of the ultimate global conspiracy starting here in Cleveland," he says. "We're talking about cover-ups, lies, and murder. There's comedy right there." (T.I.D.Y. gets its world premiere on Friday at Lakewood's Beck Center.)

The story revolves around Emily Danbert, who's just installed her Total Identification Yield -- or T.I.D.Y. -- program in Cleveland Public Library's computer system. The fictional data-processing system seems modeled on the Pentagon's proposed Total Information Awareness project, which was spiked after it outraged civil-liberties advocates.

As the curtain rises, all Danbert wants to do is pick up her cat from the vet, settle her $23 invoice to the library, and spend the evening with a pint of ice cream and her favorite TV show. But before the night is over, the computer program has triggered chaos. "I wrote the piece in response to the direction our country raced off in after 9-11, and our need for someone to be in charge and fix things," says Coble. "I guess I've been a political kid since my mom took me in my wagon to watch her vote many years ago."

Born in Scotland and raised by his mother on a Navajo reservation in New Mexico, Coble adopted Cleveland as his permanent home after earning a master's degree in acting at Ohio University. Since then, he's authored more than 90 plays, radio shows, and full-length movies -- many of them bolstered by humor. "Somebody once said, 'When you open your mouth to laugh, you open your mind to think,'" he says. "I find comedy can frequently do that more boldly than drama. We're all hungry to laugh. If that's a gift I can give, I'm happy to give it."

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