Robot Dreams

The LIDA Project will be in typical form, brewing a maelstrom of dark humor, technology and human hopes and dreams in a black-box pot, when the troupe’s latest project, R.U.R./lol, opens tonight in work | space at the Laundry on Lawrence. The new play is based loosely on Czech author Karel Čapek’s early sci-fi work Rossum’s Universal Robots, a relic from the 1920s that, as it turns out, wasn’t that far off the mark in terms of predicting the future. The story, set at the end of the world, features four robots left behind to protect the empty planet and explores issues we face today with a sort of charming hindsight.

Central to the adaptation is the accepted revelation that Rossum’s marked the first use of the word “robot,” which serves as a measure of how far technology has advanced since then. “We’ve realized a lot of that, but at the same time, we spend our time texting each other with emoticons or asking our phones where the nearest coffee shop is,” notes director Lorenzo Sariñana. Even more to the point, the current production’s cast is itself a bit of a war of the worlds, with separate performing and technology arms canoodling on stage, simultaneously making noise and (presumably) sense, in unison. Actors will go head-to-head with a staff of five technical performers, who will be running thirteen video projectors as the action plays out.

“We’ve layered in a lot of old sci-fi TV shows and films, from Flash Gordon to The Twilight Zone,” Sariñana explains. “A big element is how that stuff is campy, so as far as the interaction between humans and robots goes, it’s fun — but with some wistful moments as these very naive creatures deal with their circumstances. I call them M*A*S*H moments: those times when you’ll be joking around like they did on the show, and then, all of a sudden, you go, ‘Wow, that really affected me.’”

R.U.R./lol opens with a preview tonight at 8 p.m. at the Laundry on Lawrence, 2701 Lawrence Street; shows continue on Fridays and Saturdays (and Thursday, February 21) through March 2. For tickets, $15 to $25, go to or e-mail
Thu., Feb. 14, 8 p.m.; Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Thu., Feb. 21, 8 p.m. Starts: Feb. 14. Continues through March 2, 2013


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