Thursday, March 05, 2009
Sometimes the second a show begins you know you're in good hands. I felt that way at the beginning of Universal Robots, and the rest of the show more than lived up to that initial impression. Using Karel Čapek's classic play R.U.R. as a starting point, playwright Mac Rogers and director Rosemary Andress have created an evening of theatre that makes me wish that the Tony Award people would recognize Off-Off-Broadway shows. Presented as a ritual of remembrance ("The year is 2009. The last human being died in 1971. Each year we gather together to tell the story that we never ever forget."), Universal Robots tells a story of pride, foolishness, love, and the corruption of power and reconsiders the meaning of the words "human" and "humane." It does this in an amazingly entertaining three hours that fly by as poets and scientists try to improve the world, robots are created and "perfected," people fall in love, and the human race manages to commit suicide in a method that is chillingly believable. The brilliant ten-person cast makes you feel like you've seen a cast of hundreds, all excellent. Jason Howard as Radius, a robot who gradually develops a soul, gives as good a performance as I've ever seen. The other wonderful actors are Esther Barlow, David Lamberton, David Ian Lee, Michelle O'Connor, Ridley Parson, Nancy Sirianni, Tarantino Smith, Ben Sulzbach, and Jennifer Gordon Thomas.