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Paulanne Simmons

Resonance Ensemble Explores the Future

Directed by Valentina Fratti
in rep with "The Truth Quotient"
Directed by Eric Parness
Theatre Row’s Beckett Theatre
410 West 42 Street
Opened Jan. 9, 2013
Visit www.ResonanceEnsemble.org for performance schedule
Tickets: $19.25 (212) 239-6200 or www.telecharge.com
Closes Feb. 2, 2013
Reviewed by Paulanne Simmons Jan. 13, 2013

R.U.R. -- The robot Radius (Tyler Caffall) attacking Helena (Christine Bullen) as Dr. Gall (Kevin Bernard) tries to shut him down. Photo by John Kandel.

Resonance Ensemble, a company “dedicated to producing groups of related theatrical presentations that resonate across countless times and cultures and [confronting] universal themes and ideas significant to audiences today,” has turned its attention to science fiction and a peek into the future.

‘Connecting Circuits” features alternating productions of Lee Eric Shackleford’s adaptation of Karel Capek’s “R.U.R.” directed by Valentina Fratti and Richard Manley’s “The Truth Quotient” directed by by Eric Parness.

Capek’s classic “R.U.R.” has the distinction of originating the word “robot,” but the future he sees in a world dominated by these life-like machines is not pleasant. Henry Domin (Brad Makarowski) markets robots created Dr. Fabry (Matt W. Cody), Dr. Hallemeier (Mac Brydon) and Dr. Gall (Kevin Bernard) on an island in the Pacific, despite the fears of his wife, Helena (Christine Bullen). Although the robots at first seem complacent in doing the menial jobs they are given by their human masters, eventually they stage a rebellion and kill off the humans.

The Truth Quotient -- One Happy Family! Dad (Brian Tom O'Connor) looks on as David (Jarel Davidow) gets a hug from his girlfriend Caprice (Meredith Howard) and Mom (Angelina Fiordellisi) Photos by Jon Kandel.

“The Truth Quotient” shows what might happen if the possibilities technology introduced in “R.U.R.” comes to fruition. Now these life-like creatures can be custom made to fit the needs of their human relatives and companions. David (Jael Davidow), a wealthy businessman who is not quite so successful in his personal life, turns to a new company called Nureál, where his contact, Rachel (Shaun Bennet Wilson) manages his interactions with robot versions of his father (Brian Tom O’Connor), mother (Angelina Fiordellisi) and a girlfriend named Caprice (Meredith Howard). Things go more or less smoothly until his brother, Donald (Maxwell Zener), appears on the scene to challenge David’s new world.

In both these plays, the dialogue and the acting of the robots is far more convincing than that of the “real” characters. We expect robots to speak and act stiffly and without or with forced emotions. We do not expect this of real characters.

Both of these plays could be cut substantially with no loss to the plot or themes. This is especially evident in “The Truth Quotient,” in which Manley seems intent on showing the audience how well read he is. The problems in these plays, however, are not entirely the fault of the writers. Science fiction, which is basically plot driven, just does not have the material that can nourish much more than a half-hour “Twilight Zone” episode.

Nevertheless, fans of science fiction may rightfully regard these plays as a real treat. Both “R.U.R.” and “The Truth Quotient,” with their dystopian views of the future, have many of the elements dear to the hearts of sci-fi enthusiasts: artificial intelligence, teleology, the relationship between man and machine.

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