NIU School of Theatre and Dance shines with ‘You Are You’ performance


Abigail Lamoreaux

The NIU School of Theatre and Dance has different productions throughout the spring semester (Abigail Lamoreaux | Northern Star)

By Abigail Lamoreaux, Chief Copy Editor

On Friday, the NIU School of Theatre and Dance opened a new adaptation of Karel Čapek’s “R.U.R.” under the alternate title “You Are You.” Written by NIU alumnus Matthew Yee and directed by Matt O’Brien of GreatWorks Theatre Company, this play explores humanity and the collective consciousness of humans and robots alike while the latter commit genocide on the former.

The original text published by Čapek in 1920 follows Helena Glory, representative of the Humanity League, as she tours and learns the secrets of the island factory Rossum’s Universal Robots. Eventually, she falls in love with one of the robots while advocating that they have souls, despite their impending takeover of humanity.

In this adaptation, however, the inventor of the robots himself, Henry Rossum, plays a leading part as he oversees the robots’ uprising. He imprisons a newscaster and her cameraman, Ana and John, using their connection to the internet (now a rare commodity) to broadcast to his robot armies on the mainland. Unfortunately for Rossum, a cult of enlightened robots called the Cloveks no longer see him as their god and want revenge. 


Actor highlights

Rossum, played by senior BFA acting major Vincent J. Augustine, expresses great ambitions and even greater sorrows throughout the show with a frenzy that lasts until the play’s final moments. He is Dr. Frankenstein tormented by his creations; he is Jekyll and Hyde searching for eternal life and fighting off inner demons. It comes as a shock to the audience each time one of Rossum’s secrets is revealed.

Sophomore BFA acting majors Rylan Johnson and Jeffrey Bozek play two robots with vastly different “primary objectives” when the show begins, yet by the climax, their paths converge for a common purpose. Their performances were compelling, comedic and they made their characters worth rooting for.

Human sisters Mimi and Ana, played by junior BFA acting majors Kate Drury and Amanda Ranallo, are heart wrenching and relatable. Their onstage connection is unmatched. Out of every relationship in the play, I cheered the most for these two, wishing for them to survive together by means of their sisterhood, even though they bicker and suffer extraordinary hardships.

The performances of non-BFA students were nothing to scoff at, either. Cast members like second-year theater studies major Lauren Krelle provided grounded energy and vulnerability in her varied ensemble characters. 

Design highlights

The set itself is minimalistic, with the largest set piece being a piano in center stage. This works to the play’s advantage, however, as each scene takes place somewhere different than the scene before. The sound and lighting help the audience to fill in the blanks of the ever-changing atmosphere.

On the subject of sound and lighting, both are incredible. Often the music is anxiety-inducing, cacophonous assortments of random noises. Even the pre-show music gives off an eerie vibe before melting into a funky groove. The lighting is colorful and reminiscent of club lights during scene changes. 

Minor complaints

A few times, some actors could not be heard, either due to loud sound effects or lack of diction. I struggled to hear lines occasionally, but the story (and the actors’ body language) was easy enough to follow that I didn’t feel frustrated to have missed the exact wording of those lines.

Despite being written in the 2020s, a century after the original play, “You Are You” has sexism and heteronormativity baked into the dialogue and plot. The play does not pass the Bechdel test; while this is an arbitrary test, it is still unignorable. Robot character Sulla exists only to love men and aid them — Ana runs to Rossum for help instead of trying to help herself — unnamed human female characters exist to be abused by their drunkard fathers or to nurse a wounded Marius (played by Bozek).

If you can look past the sexist undertones and occasionally clunky dialogue, “You Are You” is funny, relevant and suspenseful.

Closing weekend details

“You Are You” runs for one more weekend, Thursday and Friday at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday at 2 p.m. in the Sally Stevens Players Theatre on the second floor of the Stevens building. To order tickets online, click here. NIU students can attend SOTD productions for free when they order tickets in advance. 

For further questions, call the SOTD box office at 815-753-1600 or email

“You Are You” contains sexual themes, simulated violence and death, strong language and flashing lights. There is a ten-minute intermission between acts.