I didn’t know what to expect when I walked into the New Ohio Theatre to see Samuel & Alasdair: A Personal History of the Robot War, but what I got was a play, with music, that left me with a lot of unanswered questions. Immediately, the audience is thrown into a strange world where the Soviets have emerged the victors of the cold war after a robot invasion sweeps across what used to be the United States. During this time, four performers are broadcasting a 1940’s style radio show about a teenage love triangle. Since the world is in turmoil I understand why technical difficulties get in the way during the broadcast. However, it didn’t need to be one of the primary focuses of the show. You get the sense that the world is in trouble so the constant power outages and radio interruption was beginning to feel redundant.
Though acted well, the play lacks character development and depth. The attention to the teenage love triangle, during the radio broadcast, didn’t relate to what was going on in the present. It didn’t answer why it was very important to have that story told. There wasn’t a connection between the two stories they were trying to convey. Also the music didn’t push the story forward and the song in the end felt out of place. The play could’ve benefited if they let the audience get to know the characters running the radio show. The lack of plot and character development made me ask what is the importance of the robot invasion, what is its history, and how does it affects the characters emotionally. The clues into their reality and pertinent lines were thrown away as if the information wasn’t important or they were trying to be unsuccessfully subtle. Joe Curnette and Marc Bovino both wrote and star in the play. The interaction between the two felt effortless. Joe Curnette played his character as smooth and dashing while Marc Bovino played his character a bit more sweet, and awkward. Stephanie Wright Thompson plays the men’s object of affection with calming intensity.
The story unfolds in a predictable manner and the subtle convictions went unnoticed. At 75 minutes long you begin to feel uncertain, while sitting in the dark, and it ends with you sitting in the dark, still feeling uncertain. With more work to be done the play feels like a work in progress.
Samuel & Alasdair: A Personal History of the Robot War runs from January 5 – 21 at the New Ohio Theatre (154 Christopher St.) in NYC. For more info visit http://www.NewOhioTheatre.org.