Samuel & Alasdair: A Personal History of the Robot War
Sci-fi meets old-time radio for an experimental broadcast.
Mon Apr 12 2010
RADIO SILENCE Curnutte, center, muffles the receiver.
Time Out Ratings<strong>Rating: </strong>4/5
Chalk it up to video exhaustion or Internet fatigue or modernity aversion, but radio theater is big again. Savvy directors (such as the U.K.’s Katie Mitchell) are turning back to old-fashioned Foley effects, and a “sound play” recently opened for the Magnetic Fields. If you’ve missed the wave, then spin your theatergoing dial to the winning, atmospheric Samuel & Alasdair: A Personal History of the Robot War, a gentle retro-construction devised by writers Joe Curnutte and Marc Bovino, director Lila Neugebauer and singer Stephanie Wright Thompson. The show may feel as fragile as a vacuum tube, but it’s actually unbreakably deft—and delightful to its minutest detail.
The conceit—that we are at a broadcast of Radio Free Irkutsk, last bastion of jauntiness after laser-eyed robots took out North America in the ’50s—demands juicy Russian accents, upbeat Cold War paranoia and Garrison Keillor levels of nostalgia. Accompanied by Alexei “Tumbleweed” Petrovya (Michael Dalto), the cast brings us variety show fare, like a plaintive version of “You Send Me” and a serial play about a Midwestern Cain and Abel. Curnutte plays our golden-boy host (“And now for Trivia Time! Brought to you by borscht!”), Bovino is lovelorn egghead scientist Mischa, and Thompson rolls her eyes with a professional’s boredom while touting their sponsor. (The State, of course.) After the lights have flickered a few times, we begin to suspect that all may not be right on the streets of Irkutsk. But inside, rest assured, you are safe in the hands of some confident new theatrical talents.
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