This Valentine’s Day, the Quasimondo Milwaukee Physical Theater will push aside the usual conventions of chocolate and hearts and offer a new tradition to celebrate the holiday: a robot variety show.
“Robot Cabaret,” which opens tonight, combines science fiction and a traditional German cabaret. Set in the future, the show features robots that entertain human audiences with any and every form of artistic expression.
“There’s dance. There’s music. There’s stand-up comedy, celebrity impersonation, magic and puppetry. There’s battle royale,” co-director Michael Guthrie said. ”The main structure of the show is a variety show, and the conceit is that these robots are putting on a variety show for human beings.”
But actor Michael Weiss hinted at something more than just variety show acts in the production.
“Some of (the robots) might have a little intent,” Weiss said. “Some might have something to benefit from having a bunch of humans in one place. I might be misleading intentionally. You don’t know. Hilarity ensues.”
Other cast members gave their own reasons why people should come see the show, with some more sarcastic than others.
“I (play) a B.A.S.T.A.R.D.: Bio-Atmospheric Sensory Terrain-And-Recon Drone,” actor Ben Yela said.
“We’re actually sponsored by NASA,” actor Alex Roy said.
The show also boasts a robot hoedown (complete with fiddles), a nine-and-a-half foot tall robot and a robot-human dance party during intermission, when the cast comes out in costume to dance with the audience.
“You never know what to expect,” Weiss said.
While Quasimondo has produced particularly unconventional shows in the past, artistic director and co-director of “Robot Cabaret” Brian Rott said this show is unprecedented even by its standards.
“In our company, we specialize in works that are devised or of a physical nature,” Rott said. “Our first three shows of the season were taken from actual texts of some sort, and our first show (of the season) was an Anton Chekhov play that was greatly adapted by us. This show was of high interest to me because it was a completely different process, the fact that we were going into this with a pretty clean slate. We were going to devise within the group the material that would come forth. That was pretty exciting for me.”
Going in with a clean slate meant the group had to think up the entire script and plot from scratch. Luckily, the cast and co-directors were able to work together to create the unique performance.
“That is an important thing for us as a company, too, that we are an ensemble theater,” Guthrie said. “We like working with the same people. We create the work together. We’re writing the script together, and with this show, people came in with robots they wanted to (portray). Nobody just acts or does a single thing.”
Weiss added that Quasimondo is one of the few theater companies that allows its actors to utilize a wide range of talents.
“With anyone here, in a more traditional theatrical setting, maybe they’re cast as a character in a play, and that’s what they do,” he said. “(In this show), you’ll see (cast members) acting, but you’ll also see (them) dancing. When it was found out that our performers tap-danced and they could impersonate celebrities, well of course we have to get Elvis and Marilyn Monroe dancing together! It was like, that has to happen now. I am personally not aware of a theater company so willing to just say, ‘Okay, let’s use that, too.’”
If supporting the innovative theater isn’t enough to make theater-goers excited for “Robot Cabaret,” the robot dance party alone can make this Valentine’s Day one you’ll never forget.