The Pierce Puyallup Drama Department presented R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots) on May 16 to 18 in the black box theater. Originally written by Karel Čapek in the 1920s, the play focuses on the concept of robots and their influence on mankind. With nine cast-members, R.U.R tells a whirlwind story of the creation of robots and the inevitable destruction of the human race. Set sometime in the near-future on an unidentified island, Rossum’s Universal Robots sought to create artificially-engineered beings that nearly replicated humans, but with more efficiency and less room for emotional impulses. When Helena, played by student Dana Montevideo, is the daughter of a wealthy beneficiary. She lands on the island and the six scientists managing the factory fall in love with her, keeping her on the island for nearly ten years. While Helena sees the good in robots and seeks to free them from their mechanically created world, the scientists are unrelenting in their development of the perfect robot. As Helena’s charms win-over the scientists, some agree to help her cultivate souls for the robots. Despite the well-meaning intentions, the robots grow in their understanding of human likeness and eventually take over the entire planet, killing nearly all of the human race. The robots leave a single human alive: Alquist, played by student James Joy, is a builder who works with his hands instead of using the latest technological advances. Unlike his fellow partners at Rossum’s, Alquist believes the key to understanding the universe is not continual progression, but love. With the desire to become humans themselves, the robots seek to find the answer to procreation, but are unable to understand the differences between real and fake beings. Alquist meets two young robots who have seemed to fall in love in the pattern nearly identical to humans, and believes them to be the new generation of Adam and Eve, a new race to populate the earth. As the entirety of the humanity dies out, the robots begin again, creating a new world composed of a mixture between reality and imagination. Despite the unusual concept, R.U.R. allowed viewers to become uncomfortable with the notion of artificial intelligence. Running at about three hours, the show featured impressive dialogue and deep-felt emotion. R.U.R. garners two general responses – philosophical discussion or confusion regarding plot holes. Left open-ended, R.U.R. encourages viewers to decide the ending for themselves. Some may find the end of humanity as deeply saddening, a reflection of what is to come. Others may find hope, as a new definition of humanity immerges to continue life on earth. While R.U.R. is unlike current expectations for student theatre, it is nonetheless a compelling depiction of what could be possible in the days ahead.
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