nytheatre.com review by Richard Hinojosa
September 28, 2012
I think a robot revolution is inevitable. It may come as a peaceful and political demanding of equal rights or it could be a violent overthrow of their creators but it will come. The creators of Motherboard, however, will not be bested when it comes to imagination, creativity and ingenuity. Antimatter Collective serves up a production that is not only visually striking but also comes with a meaty plot and rich characters.
The year is 2465 and most of humanity has been wiped out by a robot uprising 20 years earlier. In the face of annihilation the human race decided to set off its entire nuclear arsenal in the hopes the electro-magnetic pulse would stop the robots but some still remained to continue the fight until one day the robots inexplicably deactivated themselves ending the war but starting the new struggle of surviving in a nuclear wasteland. Food is scarce, lawlessness is rampant but some systems of order still remain.
At the top of the show we find a soldier named Abraham and a scientist working on a domestic care robot they found when suddenly she wakes. She is extremely cute and exceptionally strong and the scientist takes a liking to her and sets her free though he was ordered to destroy her. The story then follows her journey, as she meets feral apocalypse punks and a brainy woman-child, while at the same time following Abraham’s obsession with finding and eliminating her. Along the way you may find yourself growing attached to this adorable automaton, who goes by the name C-12, knowing that a deadly last stand with Abraham is unavoidable.
Playwright Adam Scott Mazer pens an amazing journey of discovery for his main characters. Creating sympathy for a doomed robot character has been done many times before but Mazer does it with all the skill and style of some of science fiction’s greatest writers. Mazer crafts a world filled with back-story and he even goes so far as to create his own language in the form of a futuristic, apoca-punk slang. He also choreographs some snappy fight scenes. Director Will Fulton does a great job bringing this vision of a post apocalyptic world to the stage. He balances the grounded, realistic acting of the more reasonable characters with the capricious, stylized acting of the more outrageous characters very well.
The production values on display here are really very impressive. The costumes (Bevan Dunbar and Karen Boyer) fit perfectly into this desperate, struggling world. They play a huge role in pulling you into the play. There is a fair amount of blood splatters and gore throughout the show. Makeup artist Stephanie Cox-Williams does a great job of showing the gore without trying to go too far. The props and the set are equally remarkable. Creatively designed by Danielle Baskin and Jonathan Collins respectively they are made of mostly found objects and technical junk and certainly illicit a society in decline. I also really enjoyed the cool video designed by Jonathan Shaw and Emily Friend Roberts. In monochromatic silhouette it tells a little bit about what happened to C-12 in the last days of the war.
The entire ensemble shows incredible dedication. Casey Robinson plays Abraham with so much reason and resolution that he pulled me into his camp like a good leader should. Rebecca Hirota makes playing the jerky moving and artificially emotional robot C-12 look easy but it certainly isn’t. Byrce Henry and Allison Laplatney play the feral punks, Maggot and Sweetums respectively, with conviction to their bizarre austerity. Elizabeth Bays is also remarkable as Penelope, the woman-child dressed like a baby doll. She is frighteningly childish with a sadistic side.
Motherboard is a good time from start to finish. All the production aspects come together to create an immersive world that will transport you. Mazer’s final moment in the play suggests an ongoing series. If that is his plan I certainly look forward to the next installment. Until then check this one out. It is sci-fi theater at its very best.