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Review: Robots we hate in 'Connecting Circuits'

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 15, 2013 at 9:20 pm •  Published: January 15, 2013

NEW YORK (AP) — Keep a wary eye on that little robot vacuum humming away underneath your couch; it just might be plotting against you with others of its kind.

In "Connecting Circuits," Resonance Ensemble celebrates their 10th anniversary season by presenting two shows in repertory about humans versus robots: Karel Capek's 1920 classic, "R.U.R (Rossum's Universal Robots)" directed by Valetina Fratti, and Richard Manley's new play, "The Truth Quotient," directed by Eric Parness.

The pair opened Sunday night off-Broadway at Theatre Row's Beckett Theatre, with Manley's work coming off as much more thought-provoking. Capek's play, originally written in Czech and undoubtedly novel and intriguing to audiences in the first few decades of its life, was meant as a satirical protest against the Western industrialization of human workers. When "R.U.R." was first produced in New York in 1922, it brought the word "robot" into popular use in America.

Whether it's the fault of Fratti's direction or this adaptation by Lee Eric Shackleford, "R.U.R." feels too long and slow. And definitely not satirical. Everything that's going to happen is telegraphed and predictable; any tension or original philosophy by the accomplished author seems to have disappeared.

Two of the most effective actors are Chris Ceraso as the last human alive, and Christine Bullen as innocently optimistic Helena, who worries about the robots' feelings. But despite the hardworking, 15-member cast doing their best to humanize (or roboticize) their respective characters, this production just feels tedious. By the time the robot workers, reprogrammed as soldiers, are rumored to be killing all humans, you might feel like cheering them on to do it faster.

On the other hand, Manley's play, "The Truth Quotient," is well-paced by Parness. Manley raises interesting questions about the nature of faith, trust and love, along with the pros and cons of self-delusion. What is "reality" and why must it be strenuously adhered to, if a happier alternative can be created? Manley's twist on solving modern-day loneliness is amusing, until it gets creepy.

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