Review by Liz Eichler
What a treat to listen to Miami University Theatre’s presentation of “R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots).” The voice acting and special effects are so good in this radio play you do not miss the visuals. I recommend you head to the Miami University YouTube Channel and check it out–it is FREE!
This classic story debuted a hundred years ago, written by Czech playwright and novelist Karel Čapek. He introduced the word “robot” to the world! It is about how the world’s largest robot factory creates “a line of lifelike robots, complete with artificial intelligence, to perform those tasks humans no longer wish to do,” as the program notes explain. Then things go from bad to worse. Čapek believed humans did not have the capacity to consider every ”implication of such advances,” as the program notes continue.
Adapted for audio by Lee Shackleford, it is a clear and fluid 95 minutes of listening. Directed by Lewis Magruder, with Sound Designers Shawn Maus and Mike Morgan they paint the images in your mind. There was no time I was unsure who–or what?–was speaking. The play is framed with a “last survivor” report from Alquist, and the audience listens as events unfold on the remote island, separated from the news of how the rest of the world is faring with the “smart” robots sent out from this factory. General Manager Domin greets Helena, a company rep who arrives from the mainland. She meets Sulla, the next generation of intelligent robots, and is astonished at how lifelike she is, and even more astonished when she learns why. Then news of other problems begin, and a realization that things will not end well.
The cast includes Laura Smith (Alquist), Tod Fish (Domin) Lexi Mangrum-Prokopiof (Sulla), Charlotte Snee (Helena), Emily Stowers (Fabry), Will Sapp (Hallemeier), Iam Larson (Gall/913), Justin Bourne (Busman/Primus), Mallory Stiles (Nina), Annie Watson (Radius), Julie Parker (Helenova), Tamara Snow (Callida), and Madeline Collins (Lydia/Computer). Special FX artists are Michael Ferguson, Trish Grogan, Chloe Padilla. Stage Managed by Maia Aoibhei. Assistant Director Taylor Yacck and Dramaturg Kelsi Moore.
I applaud Miami University Theatre for including voice acting in their curriculum, something they have included pre-pandemic so they were well prepared for this. Great attention to articulation and richness of tone.
This weekend is a perfect time to listen to “R.U.R.”–AI taking over our lives is a very scary story.