You probably know that Karel Čapek's 1920 Czech play R.U.R. gave the world the word "robot." It's what the second "R" stands for -- the long version of the title is "Rossum's Universal Robots." And for nearly a hundred years, the play has been considered a classic, translated into every major language on the face of the planet.
I set out to adapt R.U.R. because it seemed to me a pity there have been so few modern productions of this history-making play. It seemed to me that theatres of today have avoided the original work due to its expressionist style, to characters that seem to us now to be "two-dimensional." And many producers and directors are further distanced from the work by the awkwardly-formal language of the most literal English translations.
What if, I wondered, there was an adaptation of Čapek's masterpiece that brought the play's characters and language into a modern vernacular?
The title says it all: the cast is just these two men, these men we all think we know. And all the action takes place in one room, one world-famous sitting-room.
Doctor Watson has been grieving the death of Sherlock Holmes for three years when Holmes suddenly returns to Baker Street, expecting a warm welcome from Watson. But the reunion is not a happy one: Watson is furious at Holmes for his deception -- and to make matters worse, a trained assassin now waits outside the Baker Street flat, ready to kill Holmes ... or Watson ... or both ... at any moment...
After performing to sold-out standing-room-only houses off-Broadway in 1990, the script has been produced by small theatre groups across the country -- and is available in an attractive edition available from Amazon.com. The book contains the most polished revision of the script plus photos, tips on production, and more.
There's a lot of smoking and drinking and shooting in this play. I've often thought the play's subtitle should be "Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms!"
It's been described as the perfect play for a theatre with talented young actors and limited resources -- because it has four challenging roles, a lot of big ideas, and one simple set. The healthy mixture of comedy and tragedy only adds to the play's appeal.
Simply put, it's about four gifted college students who compete in a contest of intellect, with high-paying jobs as the prize. But in the process of answering the contest's probing questions, the four friends quickly find themselves at each other's throats and in each other's beds...