For the Fall Fringe festivities in D.C., the best of the plays from the summer festival return for another round of performances. Among the bakers’ dozen of productions currently playing is the summer’s winner for best comedy, R.U.X.: Rockwell’s Universal seXbots, which opened Friday.
Maurice Martin’s work is a saucy update of the 1920 R.U.R.: Rossum’s Universal Robots by Czech playwright Karel Capek, who was among the first to even use the word “robot.” Now nearly 100 years later, drama has been spiced up accordingly, so that a wily son plans to transform his father’s careBots business, providing hugs, help, and companionship for the sick, elderly, and lonely, into a sexBot business, with its potentially bigger market.
With his father in a coma, the son has brought in a brilliant engineer to join the team to explore the expansion. Being a bit repressed herself, the new recruit is a little skeptical of the new enterprise. Certainly, the bombastic love dolls the team has already secretly produced are not a good sign. But there’s a hardworking engineer there who has moderated his own assistant to have the human qualities, able to give help build more subtle and nuanced seductresses. And before too long the robotic receptionist turns into the kind of sleek siren that turns the head of the senator who had previously made sexBots illegal.
The themes of humanity and manufactured soul in the original play emerge in the later acts of R.U.X. as well, which is a bit of a letdown following the rapidfire comedy of the first act. But by then enough good will has ensured to cruise us to the end of this morality play.
Directed by Sun King Davis, this reprise of R.U.X. stands on the assured performances of its seasoned cast. John Tweel, who has been in every production of R.U.X. has a mastery of his role as the CEO’s son with a big idea and a damaged past. Aubri O’Connor is splendid as the genius who has to be convinced to work there, and whose own icy reserve has to be slowly melted. Adam R. Adkins is just right as the hardworking engineer who is behind the R.U.X. creations and Amy Kellett is terrific as his cheery assistant, so attuned to helping him that she installs her own lady-parts.
Amie Cazel may have the most demanding role, as her robot changes from one-dimensional floor unit to prototype of pure seduction. But Frank Mancino has to play a couple of roles as well, from the stuffy CEO to a broadly-played senator with a Foghorn Leghorn voice and one of the worst wigs around.
Directed by Sun King Davis, this reprise of ‘R.U.X.’ stands on the assured performances of its seasoned cast.
Part of the roles of Momo Nakamura and Ricardo Frederick Evans are to transcend their robotic roles and, in the latter, bring in some positive humanity as well.
As provocative as its title and poster suggest, R.U.X. is surprisingly benign on stage, with no nudity, only a flash of a bra strap and the same amount of male-parts jokes as in the average contemporary sitcom.
The play, once conceived as a series of 15 minute scenes at Hope Opera (where it also won an award), may have a sitcom’s pacing in its DNA as well. As such, it may have been more effective at half the length, dropping some philosophy and powering up the comedy. But just as with the robots in question, some retooling by their creator is always a possibility.
Running time: 85 minutes, no intermission.
Advisory: Mature Themes.
R.U.X. (Rockwell’s Universal seXbots) plays the Fall Fringe at Fort Fringe, 607 New York Ave. NW, though Nov. 18, with remaining performances Saturday Nov. 10 at 9:30 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 11 at 5:30 p.m., Saturday Nov. 17 at 1 p.m. and Sunday Nov. 18 at 4:45 p.m.). Information and tickets call 866-811-4111 or click here.