Heddatron at Lafayette College

Tonight I went to see Heddatron at Lafayette College.

It’s the third weekend in a row the teenager and I went to the theater and this was by far the teen’s favorite.

Last weekend we went to see a high school production of Once Upon a Mattress, discussed here: I blame the Freddies and the weekend before that we partook in Tartuffe at DeSales University, reviewed here: Tartuffe at DeSales.

Our finance manager at the office invited us to the show since her husband is technical director of the college theatre. He pitched this show to the head of the theatre program (who, when I worked at the college more than 20 years ago was the entire theatre department, my how times have changed). And my colleague’s husband also co-taught a theatre/mechanical engineering class last fall that built the robots for this show.

Yes, Robots.

First, let me say, before getting into some of the eclectic contemporary joy of this show, that Buck Hall has a charming array of theaters to work in.

I love the challenges and the flexibility of a Black Box Theater. Most of my days in college theater happened in a black box, and the difference between performing on a traditional proscenium stage and a black box is an extreme shift in perspective and intimacy.

Performers on a proscenium stage remain above, untouched and superior to the audience; whereas in a black box, the actors and the audience engage and entwine in unspoken ways that change the performance and its meaning.

So my heart always races when I enter a black box. It’s a test of strength for the entire theatre company.

Loosely summarized, this play presents us with a pregnant housewife who is kidnapped by robots, transported to the rainforest and forced to perform Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler.

The acting was solid, though in some sections in became difficult to hear the actors overhead.

The set design and use of props proved vivid and entertaining. Perhaps what impressed me most was the fluidity of scene changes and prop switches that happened right under the audience’s nose.

The robots were sci-fi rich yet silly, one made from a mannequin (and he of course talked about the size of his penile shaft), another made of a garbage can and a Rubbermaid cooler with salad tongs for arms. Three others appeared, one loosely comprised of an ironing board, another a broom.

The director’s notes refer to the multimedia and STEM nature of this piece. And indeed, the show made use of video, music and robotics. Futuristic yet in the past and present all in the same time.

And for pure comic relief, the cast performed Bonnie Tyler’s Total Eclipse of the Heart.

I know a show is good when my brain stops analyzing and just has a good time. That happened to me in this show, right around the Bonnie Tyler sing-along.

But, being me, I must keep dwelling on themes. Even though the video clips ask us to consider if we’ve sexually assaulted our toasters over the years (inserting our bread into its cavities for years for nothing but our own pleasure) and if the robots will wake up to our abuses, the actors seem to be asking us to examine the place of women and also to examine our commitments and relationships— has humanity evolved at all in the last 150 years? Or will the robots do it first?

After the show, the teenager and I took photos outside Buck Hall.

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