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Philip K. Dick Fans Should Enjoy Production of 'Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?'
Late great science fiction author Philip K. Dick's two thematic questions that ran through almost all of his work were "What is reality" and "What does it mean to be human?" While his novel The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch is an example of the former question, a nightmarish tale of drug users on the ultimate unending bad trip, his book Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? deals effectively with the latter question. Famously the source material for the great film Blade Runner, the book has been faithfully adapted by Edward Einhorn into a play which is receiving its west coast premiere at Sacred Fools. Director Jaime Robledo brings his considerable talents to bear on the worthy and respectful production, but a couple of ill-judged performances and staging issues keep the show from achieving its full potential.
In a future, postwar America, radioactive fallout has killed most animals and people are exhorted to emigrate to Mars, where androids are used as slave labor. Sometimes these androids escape, however, and it's Rick Deckard's (Eric Curtis Johnson) job to discover and kill them. Unfortunately, these androids are almost indistinguishable from humans, which makes his job tricky and dangerous. He's assigned to investigate famous singer Luna Luft (Emily Kosloski), but only after meeting representative Rachael Rosen (Kimberly Atkinson) from the android creation company. Meanwhile, well-meaning but mentally damaged pet shop employee Isidore (Corey Klemow) has to adjust to the presence of two mysterious people in his previously empty building, the seductive Pris (Atkinson) and the grim Roy (Rafael Goldstein), whose arrival doesn't portend anything good for Rick.
I understand that the character of Rick is supposed to question his own humanity in the course of the story, but unfortunately Johnson's performance never convinced me of any aspect of the role, from being a hired killer to ultimately someone looking for something to love. On the other hand, I thought Klemow gave the best performance I've seem him give in years of working with Sacred Fools. He's sympathetic and utterly believable as the genuinely moral Isidore, seeming like he walked right of the pages of the novel. Kosloski is sly and impressive as the deceptive Luna, and her singing voice is gorgeous. Atkinson does detailed and strong work as both Pris and Rachael, but Goldstein's portrayal of Roy regrettably reduces the part to a single note of repeated menace. Marz Richards is admirably overblown and obsequious as TV personality Buster Friendly, and Lynn Odell, Bruno Oliver and Mandi Moss round out a strong ensemble.
Director Robledo dexterously manages to keep focus on the many facets of the play, from the detective story to the philosophical questions of what makes one human, from creating a convincing future world to the religious and moral imperative of empathy. He also uses multimedia technology very effectively, and a sequence where Rick uses his car to travel through the town seems like a film special effects scene come to life. My only quibble is that the gaps in the action during the scene changes create a great deal of inertia, causing the play to strain to have to continually regain its momentum. Perhaps some video or other business could be used to bridge these gaps? Einhorn's adaptation manages efficiently to condense the action and all the disparate themes of the novel into a short play, but I think more time spent on some of the supporting characters such as Roy and Rachael might have increased the dramatic impact. Overall, Androids is a good if imperfect show, but fans of Philip K. Dick should find it to be a solid adaptation.
"Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" runs through Oct. 19 at Sacred Fools Theater. Tickets are available online.