A scene from Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. Photo by Alexandra Marlin.
BOTTOM LINE: If you've read the book, you'll be especially delighted by this production; if you've seen the movie Blade Runner, you might be a bit confused. Regardless, Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? is a brilliant theatrical event.
I have to come clean here: I am a huge fan of the book, written in 1968 by Philip K. Dick, and also the 1982 movie directed by Ridley Scott; I was really looking forward to seeing this production. It was a slippery slope of possibilities: it could have been the worst gamble I'd made with New York independent theatre, it could have been awful.
But it wasn't.
Electric Sheep begins with a pre-show of vintage "future-age" public announcements packed with robots (pronounced "roh-bits") and the glory of what conveniences the future holds in store. Some of them are just delightful and all of them are thoroughly entertaining and relevant to the show's story.
Electric Sheep is a thoughtful adaptation by a company that took care to spend money where it was most necessary (set, props, costumes, video, projections) as well as on additions that made the production truly stellar (a cellist that underscored the entire performance on stage). It was clearly a labor of love and by people who really knew what they were doing.
If you've never read the book, you may be a bit confused, but the basic outline is: it's the distant future after an inevitable nuclear post-20th century war. Animals are nearly extinct, the air is barely breathable, the refuse of the world scatters every inch of uninhabited (read: deserted because so many people are dead) buildings and streets, robots have been developed to fill the void of missing living things and a good portion of the earth's surviving population moved to Mars to live a better life. The robots have gotten so advanced that they've had to develop a psychological test that measures empathy to tell if a robot is a real human or an android. Convoluted? Nah, it's incredibly clear, trust me.
Every performer is wonderfully cast, but the most notable are Moira Stone as the opera singer Luna Luft who is featured singing arias during a good portion of the play and has one of the most controlled and beautiful mezzo soprano voices I've heard in a long time... and she's a fine actor to boot (in my experience the two don't necessarily go hand in hand). Alex Emanuel as the play's protagonist, android bounty hunter Deckard, is perfect; Alyssa Simon as the other bounty hunter, Phillipa Ryan, brings a crisp Sam Spade private dick quality to her role that is authentic and real and very enjoyable. I could easily compliment the work of every single member of the cast - everyone is stellar.
The true accolades go to Edward Einhorn though: his adaptation is really quite smart and very worthwhile, not one bit of what he includes is gratuitous or unnecessary. He has taken great care to respect the book's essence and reality while not seeping the play with sci-fi craziness. Video design by Jared Mezzocchi is incredibly well-choreographed and quite impressive. Costumes by Carla Gant are thoughtful and especially stunning on both the opera singer (Luft) and Deckard's wife (played by Uma Incrocci). Musical compositions by Henry Akona (performed live and underscoring the show, by trading cellists Michael Midlarsky and Laura Metcalf) engulf the audience in its ethereal other worldly sound. Set design by Neal Wilkinson is not only efficient providing great levels of space and view, but also quite beautiful and smartly themed with retro shape and style.
I can't think of a reason for you not to see this show...especially if you've read the book.
(Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? plays at 3LD Art & Technology, 80 Greenwich Street south of Rector Street, through December 10, 2010. Performances are Thursdays through Saturdays at 8PM and Sundays at 5PM, with a special performance on Wednesday December 8th at 8pm. Tickets are $18 and are available at www.untitledtheater.com or by calling 212-352-3101.)