Utopian Turtletop. Monsieur Croche's Bête Noire. Contact: turtletop [at] hotmail [dot] com

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

he first used the word “robot.”

My beloved spouse and I saw R.U.R. -- Rossum’s Universal Robots -- last Saturday. What a trippy play! I’d read it 20 or 25 years ago, as the band I’d been with in high school was first called R.U.R., and then the Young Rossums as we found out that a Grand Rapids band was already playing around the state under the name R.U.R. I’d forgotten what a nutty play it is.

The Czech writer Karel Capek wrote it in 1921. Vonnegut’s Player Piano echoes major themes. Ball of Fire, a screwball comedy with Cary Grant & Barbara Stanwyck, borrowed a major chunk of its imagery. What makes the play nutty, besides its enormous logical contradictions, is continually shifting tone, from screwball comedy to visionary passion to violent catastrophe to florid poetic tragedy to possible hope. What makes the play famous: it coined the word “robot.” Capek’s brother Josef coined the word when Karel got stuck while writing it.

Open Circle Theater’s production rocked it. The funny scenes were very funny. The drama was dramatic. The grimness was grim. Witty sound design. Fine all the way around.

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