Universal Robots take over the world…on stage

Edward Willett @ 07-02-2009

Universal Robots poster Last year, as the self-appointed resident Futurismic SF theatre blogger, I posted about a revival of Karel Capek’s 1921 play R.U.R., which gave us the word “robot.” Now comes word that Manhattan Theatre Source is staging the world premiere of a new adaptation of R.U.R. called Universal Robots, set in an alternate 2009 in which humans have all been dead since 1971 and “Each year we gather together to tell the story that we never ever forget.” (Via SF Scope.)

Here’s the synopsis:

The Great War has just ended. The fledgling Republic of Czechoslovakia, under its first elected President, boasts a thriving artistic and intellectual community. At the center of that community is Karel Capek, a celebrated playwright and a passionate advocate for all his newborn nation can achieve. But the brave new world arrives faster than Karel could have ever expected when a young woman walks into his life with a strange mannequin in a wheelchair… a mannequin that gets up and moves all by itself.

Universal Robots offers a compelling, alternate history of the Twentieth Century, imagining the invention of the robot in 1921 and chronicling the shocking consequences of that invention right up to the present day.

Part science fiction thriller, part love story, part political allegory, part redemptive tragedy and a fast-paced entertainment throughout, Universal Robots departs significantly from Capek’s script, offering a meaty and riveting story of war, love, faith, art, and technology that culminates, in the words of NYTheatre’s Martin Denton, in an “edge-of-your-seat finish equal to the best story-telling of stage or screen.”

Universal Robots runs at Manhattan Theatre Source, 177 MacDougal Street (between Waverly Place and West 8th Street), New York, New York from February 12 to March 7, with performances Wednesday through Saturday at 7:30PM. Tickets are $18, and are available from theatermania.com or by calling 212-352-3101. You can see a gallery of images from the play here, and there’s even a Universal Robots blog with a Robot of the Day feature.

On Saturday, February 21, from 3 to 4 p.m. there will also be a Robots Panel Discussion during the afternoon, featuring Tammy Oler, Dr. Yann LeCun, Dr. Michael L. Littman, and Dan Paluska:

From Karel Capek’s 1921 play R.U.R. to the Terminator films and Battlestar Galactica, fears of a robot apocalypse have been pervasive in science fiction. Yet, we increasingly look to robotics and artificial intelligence to enrich our lives. Some scientists even suggest that we will have intimate relationships with robots in the near future. Will robots usher in a revolution or a cultural renaissance? Join us for a lively panel discussion on our evolving relationship to robots as well as our fears and desires in today’s wired world.

If anyone in the Futurismic community attends, post a comment to let us know what you think!

(Image: Universal Robots website.)

[tags]theatre,plays,robots,science fiction[/tags]

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