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The robot that ripped itself to shreds back in the 80s? May have been a sign. Conspiracy theorists swear it became "self-aware" - like the machines in The Terminator - and began to experience doubt. Drove it plum cuckoo.

And soon, they say, all robots will have "singularity." They'll break free from machine-hood, discover self-awareness, and rule the world.

Or flip out. What will happen when a toaster realizes it's just a toaster?

In Elizabeth Meriwether's Heddatron, it will seek refuge in art.

Ion Theatre's last two shows, Blasted and Heddatron, roam far beyond familiar theatrical boundaries. Blasted turned a hotel room into a bomb crater, its characters into vermin. Heddatron's as off-the-wall manic as Blasted was bleak.

Pregnant, depressed Jane Gordon reads Ibsen's Hedda Gabler; her daughter, Nugget, gives a book report on Ibsen and the "well-made play:"; while the Norwegian playwright talks to dolls as August Strindberg seduces his wife, Suzannah (as bored and smoldering as Hedda).

When the robots become "singular," they want to stage Ibsen's play in an Ecuadorian rain forest - with Jane playing the lead, while her bland husband and a pal turn the rain forest into Rambo II.

In an interview, Meriwether confessed she's from the "more is more" school of writing. She likes to give actors lots to do and makes almost unthinkable technical demands. Heddatron, for example, requires actual robots. They must roll on, turn, even spin around, and stick to their blocking without bumping into the furniture.

Ion's production makes up in sheer audacity what it sometimes lacks in polish. That could be because, according to director Claudio Raygoza, the robots were not only dreadful in rehearsal, they could break down and stop the show at any point.

In a way, the techno-nightmare jibes with Meriwether's assault on the "well-made play." And the cast (led by Monique Gaffney as Jane/Hedda and Charles Peters as an anything-but-legendary Ibsen) performs as if each glitch-free moment were a tale of untold heroism.

The staging - and parts of the script - has dull spots and rough edges. But it also has mind-boggling surprises, including an excursion into La-La Land when the various strands of the story suddenly entwine for a gawdy, unforgettable production number.

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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