Robots and Theater Mix in “Heddatron”

“Heddatron” is an imaginative romp that programs literature to interface with robots.

Throw in a media cover-up, reality television and a school book report, and the output is laughable! With so much going on, this 1-and-a-half-hour, no-intermission show is a triple play well worth seeing.

Using documentary-style film footage, the play chronicles the recent robot-led abduction of a woman, Jane. Her husband has paired up with his arms dealer brother to find her. Meanwhile, her daughter, Nugget, is giving a theatre history report on the making of Henrik Ibsen’s play “Hedda Gabler.”

As Nugget muses on the state of mind of the playwright, the imagined Ibsen household struggles with relationship roles. It’s a triple play of past, present and future. Flashbacks and flash-forwards keep the intrigue riveting in separate segments. A midpoint flash mob of humans and robots creates a hilarious musical moment. It’s a showstopper that transports you into a Sci-Fi realm. For a play based on a suicide drama, Sideshow Theatre has shot out a creative, chaotic comedy!

And Sideshow’s robots are deadly hilarious. In various sizes and designs, the robots talk, sing, flirt and act. Operated by remote controls, the effect is theatrical, unique fantasia. Despite the robotic novelty, the humans, too, hold their own with scene-stealing hilarity.

Under the direction of Jonathan L. Green and the witty dialogue of Playwright Elizabeth Meriwether, the talented mortals are fully automated to entertain. Delivering grown-up insights, Catherine Stegemann (Nugget) is outstanding as a precocious and adorable kid. Her dad, Matt Fletcher (Rick), is an opportunistic robot hunter. His brother, Andy Luther (Cubby), is a vulgar buffoon. Poignantly glum for the most part, Nina O’Keefe (Jane) gets a brief respite to control the robotic play. Over at the Ibsens, Robert Koon (Henrik) duals deliciously with his shrew (Jennifer Matthews), his nemesis (Brian Grey) and his maid (Jennifer Shine). The historical farce offers a comedic take on Ibsen’s evolution of thought.

“Heddatron” runs Feb. 11 to 24 at the Steppenwolf Garage Theatre, 1650 N. Halsted. Tickets are $20. Call 312-335-1650 or visit steppenwolf.org.