Saturday, June 05, 2010

War with the Newts

Last night I saw a fantastic play produced by Next Theatre: War With the Newts, directed by Jason Loewith. My theatre-going-pal, M, is a fan of his and I'm so glad she invited me to this show! It was a really remarkable production.

The play is based on the 1936 book by Karel Capek, whose name Husband not only easily pronounced but also had some familiarity with his Ĺ“uvre. (It turns out this guy invited the word "robot" back in 1921 in his book R.U.R. Rossum's Universal Robots. Yo. He knows that shit. I love him.) In the story, people discover and quickly learn to exploit this race of newts (or salamanders). And, then... the newts fight back!

Next Theatre employs a number of theatrical elements to tell the story, like puppets and slides and video, but rather than letting those things run away with the show (as they often do) it was really elegantly done. The art direction was stunning - it's amazing what they did to create mood and atmosphere. Deceptively simple set design. Really terrific performances by all.

The story is SO topical - exploitation of the sea (hello, oil crisis), capitalism run amok, disregard for well-being of others, alas, those universal themes are still hanging around our necks today. (Lately I had cause to marvel about how these "old" stories are surprisingly relevant today, and then I got surprised at my own surprise - human drama hasn't changed that much since Plato started writing.) I encourage you to check it out if you're in the Chicago area...


d00dpwn1337 said...

Isaac Asimov apparently said, "Capek's play is, in my own opinion, a terribly bad one, but it is immortal for that one word. It contributed the word 'robot' not only to English but, through English, to all the languages in which science fiction is now written."

d00dpwn1337 said...

Here's another phun phact.

According to wikipedia, the evil company "Rossum Corp" in Joss Whedon's dollhouse is named after the play.