New York | 2h 30m | Already closed

Universal Robots

From 11 critic and 8 member reviews
Members say: Ambitious, Great acting, Intelligent, Thought-provoking, Intense

About the show

Gideon Productions presents Mac Rogers' alternate history play, which imagines the invention of the robot in 1921 Czechosolvakia and chronicles its consequences up to the present day. More…

The Great War has just ended. The fledgling Republic of Czechoslovakia boasts a thriving artistic community. At the center of it is Karel Čapek, a celebrated playwright. His newborn nation and his world are changed when a young woman walks into his life with a strange mannequin in a wheelchair...a mannequin that gets up and walks all by itself. A story of war, art, and technology that is equal parts sci-fi thriller and love story. Inspired by the late Čapek's seminal 1921 play 'R.U.R.'

Show Showdown

"Universal Robots' brims with riches. It is funny, moving, thought-provoking, and heartbreaking. It can be enjoyed on many levels, from not-so-simple entertainment to a treatise on humanity. It is filled with throwaway jokes, fascinating characters, and warnings about the future. 'Universal Robots' is not without imperfections. It takes too long to get started...Some actors have not found the exact right calibration in their performances...Otherwise the show is quite well-directed and acted." Full Review

Culture Catch

"Though Čapek's life and corpus provide the intertextual focus, audiences will also be put in mind of the works of writers including Philip K. Dick and Isaac Asimov, as well as of Fritz Lang's 'Metropolis'...'Universal Robots' combines allegory, allusion, humor, and propulsive storytelling to fashion a sweeping, almost Shakespearean sci-fi experience. Give your robot avatar the day off and go see this production for yourself." Full Review

Theatre is Easy

"This skillfully portrayed tale is a compelling twist on classic sci-fi tropes and timeless questions about the nature of existence...Overall, 'Universal Robots' is a lovely, often comedic, and equally tragic take on a set of very recognizable circumstances...While fans of sci-fi are sure to get a special kick out of this play, I think anyone who enjoys intimate theatre that asks difficult-to-answer questions will surely get their money’s worth." Full Review

City of Kik

"A bold achievement, giving audiences plenty of food for thought without skimping on the thrills one would expect from an alternate-history tale about a robot apocalypse...The start of the play may not be as accessible for general audiences, but patience is quickly rewarded...An allegorical smorgasbord about war, mortality, and creativity that seems just as relevant today as it does in the story's time period." Full Review


"While the relaxed, slow-moving discussion of ethics and morality in the first act becomes a bit of a soporific, the second act, which moves with breakneck speed, is both provocative and electrifying. The intensity and ease with which the cast of ten play their often multiple roles goes a good way to making this compelling theater." Full Review

Stage Buddy

"While everyone and their mother/father can write about faith vs. science, not many artists have the generosity to open up a space where the two can not only co-exist peacefully, but rather complement each other...If the robots of the title suggest sleek, mechanical beings (and it must be said that the play works wonders as pulpy sci-fi), there might not be a more human show playing on any other New York stage." Full Review


"While it gets off to a slow start, 'Universal Robots' does a great job establishing the precise political moment of 1920s Czechoslovakia...It strengthens considerably in the second act as it focuses in on a heartbroken Jo and her moral unease with the new direction the robot project has taken...Sci-fi theater is always a challenge, and Rogers succeeds again in creating an innovative, engaging play that will leave you wanting more. It's a fun night out and a philosophical quandary all in one." Full Review

Village Voice

"The slapdash imprecision of Jordana Williams's production would probably have delighted the Capeks...The lack of polish, and sometimes of subtlety, in Rogers's writing never diminishes its seriousness of purpose: The script is philosophic without being pompous. And in addition to strong performances like Cronyn's and Cheek's, there's a fearsomely forceful one, by Jason Howard in the pivotal role of the robot Radius, of a quality that would make any production a major one." Full Review

The New York Times

"This is a love story and the play’s surprising center, by design and by virtue of Ms. Cheek’s and Mr. Howard’s standout performances: quiet, intense, funny, affecting… 'Universal Robots' has a cast of 10 performers, immediately impressive in their ease…But the pacing on both page and stage can be plodding, the action convoluted...It seems like a young writer’s script, overstuffed with ideas...It appears to arrive at an ending at least a couple of times before it actually does." Full Review

Time Out New York

"Much of the writing is strong, but by comparison with Rogers's excellent 'Honeycomb Trilogy,' the storytelling is less assured, requiring story-theater interjections that slow velocity. It's also difficult to overlook the rather shambolic physical presentation...Gideon Productions shows have always had a hint of the enthusiast-amateur about them...Yet for some, this doesn't matter...'Universal Robots' preselects its audience. Indeed, you may already be programmed to love this show." Full Review

Theater In The Now

"Produced by one of the leading science fiction theater lovers in New York, Gideon Productions, 'Universal Robots' receives a new imagining that feels flimsy and tired...It could easily lose and fine-tune some of the extremely long exposition at the top to reach the intrigue of the robots sooner...The aesthetic felt bland...You hate to compare but you have to...If you saw 'The Honeycomb Trilogy,' be prepared to be disappointed. 'Universal Robots' was lacking that spark you’ve come to expect." Full Review

Great acting, Resonant, Thought-provoking, Great staging, Great writing

See it if you like philosophical questions answered thru scifi pulp in the best way. Masterful writing and a great twist at the end.

Don't see it if you can't sit through 2.5 hours of theatre. You don't like scifi or robots, or a good time.

Compelling, Intelligent, Original, Great writing, Ambitious

See it if you like plays that are intelligent and work on a variety of levels. Needs a bit of pruning, but overall an interesting evening of theatre.

Don't see it if your taste runs from fluff to sit-com style plays.

Ambitious, Great acting, Intelligent, Original, Intense

See it if you're interested in speculative fiction, alternate history, or drama with a dose of philosophy.

Don't see it if you're unwilling to sit through a somewhat slow first act for the payoff of a dynamite act two.

Ambitious, Absorbing, Intelligent, Intense

See it if you like sci-fi and questions of humanity. Great writing and staging. Completely engaging.

Don't see it if you want an uplifting evening out.

Ambitious, Resonant, Clever

See it if Like sci fi

Don't see it if Bored easily

Ambitious, Disappointing, Intelligent, Thought-provoking

See it if you like sci-fi, with political & moral resonance, on stage. Writer Mac Rogers & his committed cohorts deserve support.

Don't see it if you're tired of robots-are-taking-over tropes & hope sci-fi will mean action instead of 2 &1/2 hrs of talk talk talk by an oft robotic cast.

Thought-provoking, Profound, Intense, Great acting

See it if Inspired by the 1920's Czech play R.U.R., this Sci Fi story is a cautionary tale of robots rising against their human creators. Ambitious.

Don't see it if Not as good as author's terrific Honeycomb Trilogy, but still good once you get past 1st 30 mins of exposition. Slow pacing in 1st Act.

Slow, Thought-provoking, Ambitious, Great acting, Clever

See it if you are interested in our increasingly technological world and its impact on human life.

Don't see it if you do not like to think and think fast - the dialogue is quick!

Cast & Creatives (17)