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Robopop! pushes boundaries and broadens concepts
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Robopop! pushes boundaries and broadens concepts

by Miryam Gordon - SGN A&E Writer

Robopop!
Washington
Ensemble Theatre
Through May 10


Robopop! at WET (Washington Ensemble Theatre) is a cross-cultural blend of story and dance. WET's latest ensemble-created piece tells a story of 'one woman's heroic quest to save the human race in an epic battle of Man vs. Robot, where love is her downfall and ultimate savior.'

With homages to Japanese anime, the band The Flaming Lips, and numerous 'robot versus human' movies, the ensemble presents what could be considered a long-form music video (it's an hour long). The program includes a list of songs with titles that explain the story, like 'The Chosen One,' 'Battle 1,' 'Love Ballet,' etc.

A very cool set by Andrea Bryn Bush has a series of lights arranged in a tiered diagonal fashion that makes the stage look very deep - quite a feat in a small area like the WET stage. Light colors and clouds on the walls give a look of floating in space. Amazing costumes by Heidi Ganser include great robot heads and regimental soldier-like robot costumes in black, and "human" jumpsuits in orange. Lighting is extremely important for this production, and Amiya Brown has accomplishes a complex range of moods and styles.

The choreography is all very evocative. It's uncredited to a single person, but supported by a "consultant," Ellie Sandstrom. The choreographers (the Ensemble?) deserve notice for their ability to keep it fresh and only duplicate moves when they choose to evoke earlier moments.

The music is a mix of popular songs and mood music to underscore the action. Video is also used to augment the action. A unique piece of business has a robot "reprogrammed" to forget its love for the humans, and a video shows the deletion of everything the robot "knows."

The nimble cast is listed with no particular roles applied, but Libby Matthews has the main role of the Human in this story, and Hannah Victoria Franklin stands out due to her amazing costume, which is covered in stuffed dogs, and her role as the sort of super robot Mama. The other actors are John Abramson, Noah Benezra, Ali El-Gasseir, Mary Bliss Mather, Jillia Pessenda, Erin Pike, and Mickey Rowe, as well as Kazuma Yamada, who is seen on a special video in the lobby before the start of the show.

WET's mission is to push boundaries and explore collaborations in their art. This piece definitely does that, blurring the connection between theater and dance, storytelling and music videos. Certainly, language is no barrier for this show, so any foreign tourist or resident who struggles with English will have no problems understanding the production.

It's all crisply done and well-planned. This has all the hallmarks of a WET production, with clean lines and impeccable details. Kudos to the company for another production that continues to challenge and broaden the concept of "what is theater?" For more information, go to www.washingtonensemble.org or www.brownpapertickets.com or call 206-325-5105.

Comments on reviews go to sgncritic@gmail.com.

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