Theater review by Adam Feldman
Born deep beneath the ravaged surface of the earth, survivors of a global apocalypse cling to stories and computer simulations of the world their grandparents once knew. Water is scarce, reproduction is tightly controlled and th—Wait, I’m sorry, first things first: There’s a robot! There’s a robot onstage! There’s an impossibly cute little remote-controlled robot onstage and it’s gray with yellow fuzz and has big black eyes and it looks like what might happen if R2-D2 had a threeway with a penguin and a Minion. The robot's name is Arthur and, as designed by Noah Mease and voiced by Will Connolly, it dominates Zoe Kazan’s cautionary drama After the Blast. Not since Liz Meriwether’s 2006 Heddatron has an adorable automaton rolled off so completely with a show.
But where were we? Oh, right. The depressed Anna (Cristin Milioti) and her scientist husband, Oliver (William Jackson Harper), have only one chance left to secure approval to have a child. Hoping to lift Anna’s spirits before their psychological exam, Oliver brings Arthur home for her to train, and intense bonding ensues. Kazan has worked out the details of her dystopia with care, but After the Blast could use an editor’s pen: It is palpably overlong, and there is some rather heavy-handed finger-wagging about the things we take for granted. But Milioti and Harper are excellent in the central roles, director Lila Neugebauer surrounds them with a top-drawer production and Arthur is downright merchandisable. Perhaps this is how the robot takeover of theater begins: not with a shock but with an awww.
Claire Tow Theater at Lincoln Center (Off Broadway). By Zoe Kazan. Directed by Lila Neugebauer. With Cristin Milioti, William Jackson Harper. Running time: 2hrs 20mins. One intermission. Through November 19.