Heddatron at Ion Theatre
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.
More like this:
- Ibsen's law — June 15, 2016
- Bengal Tiger at the Bagdad Zoo, Ion Theatre (Part two) — May 21, 2013
- The Further Adventures of Hedda Gabbler at Diversionary — April 15, 2013
- Ibsen and Acting — Jan. 31, 2012
- Peer Gynt at La Jolla Playhouse — July 8, 2011