Henry Akona | Director and Composer

Reviews: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

“An act of fan love but also dramatically shrewd, since a downtown play is a better forum than a Hollywood blockbuster for a grim meditation on religion, consumerism and what it means to be human ... Neal Wilkinson’s set is exactly right: high-tech but also organic, a design that resists straight lines and geometric shapes. Its surrealism (imagine a modest, cut-rate creation by Gaudí) matches the dreamlike style ... What sticks with you are more ghostly images: a fuzzy video screen, a sad-faced android and an opera singer, played by Moira Stone, who seems both completely phony and movingly fragile at the same time.”

Jason Zinoman
The New York Times

“Challenging, thought-provoking ... [Dick]'s indictments of blind religious faith, tabloid TV, celebrity worship and a society gone numb seem depressingly timely four decades later.”

Raven Snook
Time Out New York

“Metcalf's live solo cello played throughout his production is fantastic! Henry Akona composed the warm and sedate melodies. They say the cello creates sounds that are closest to the human voice so it is a perfect choice of instrument for a story about what it really means to be human. There is a cool video component to the production that works in many ways. There are three oddly shaped screens hanging above the set with a projector pointed at each one. Video designer Jared Mezzocchi uses them mostly as video screens for phone calls or TV shows the characters are watching.

“The cast is very good. Alex Emanuel plays Deckard with a cold, hard soul that slowly warms and melts as he begins to realize that he is actually more inhuman than human because he remorselessly hunts down androids. Yvonne Roen plays Priss and Rachel (the same model android but different people) with flair and certainly no fear. Moira Stone is extraordinary as Luna. She has a singing voice as strong as her acting skills. Christian Pedersen plays Roy with tons of grinning arrogance. He channels a lot of Rutger Hauer, who plays Roy is the movie. The rest of the cast does a fine job building this world where the lines between real and replica are blurred.

“This production is surprisingly provocative. The script pinpoints the subject and daringly tackles some heavy ideas. The design and music are exceptional and the acting is pretty solid. There are likely to be a lot of people out there that really only know this story from the movie but this is a great way to get the story Philip K. Dick intended.”

Richard Hinjosa

“If you’ve read the book, you'll be especially delighted by this production; if you've seen the movie Blade Runner, you might be a bit confused. Regardless, Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? is a brilliant theatrical event.

“I have to come clean here: I am a huge fan of the book, written in 1968 by Philip K. Dick, and also the 1982 movie directed by Ridley Scott; I was really looking forward to seeing this production. It was a slippery slope of possibilities: it could have been the worst gamble I'd made with New York independent theatre, it could have been awful.

“But it wasn't.

“Electric Sheep is a thoughtful adaptation by a company that took care to spend money where it was most necessary (set, props, costumes, video, projections) as well as on additions that made the production truly stellar (a cellist that underscored the entire performance on stage). It was clearly a labor of love and by people who really knew what they were doing.

“Every performer is wonderfully cast, but the most notable are Moira Stone as the opera singer Luna Luft who is featured singing arias during a good portion of the play and has one of the most controlled and beautiful mezzo soprano voices I've heard in a long time... and she's a fine actor to boot (in my experience the two don't necessarily go hand in hand). Alex Emanuel as the play's protagonist, android bounty hunter Deckard, is perfect; Alyssa Simon as the other bounty hunter, Phillipa Ryan, brings a crisp Sam Spade private dick quality to her role that is authentic and real and very enjoyable. I could easily compliment the work of every single member of the cast - everyone is stellar.

The true accolades go to Edward Einhorn though: his adaptation is really quite smart and very worthwhile, not one bit of what he includes is gratuitous or unnecessary. He has taken great care to respect the book's essence and reality while not seeping the play with sci-fi craziness. Video design by Jared Mezzocchi is incredibly well-choreographed and quite impressive. Costumes by Carla Gant are thoughtful and especially stunning on both the opera singer (Luft) and Deckard's wife (played by Uma Incrocci). Musical compositions by Henry Akona (performed live and underscoring the show, by trading cellists Michael Midlarsky and Laura Metcalf) engulf the audience in its ethereal other worldly sound. Set design by Neal Wilkinson is not only efficient providing great levels of space and view, but also quite beautiful and smartly themed with retro shape and style.

I can't think of a reason for you not to see this show...especially if you've read the book.”

Janelle Lannan
Theater is Easy

“Alex Emanuel as Rick and Uma Incrocci as his spouse Iran convey the grinding blankness of the dying (yet still killing) planet well; Roen in a dual role as Pris and her upscale android counterpart Rachel is skillfully off-human, and does a good job adopting the femme fatale/object-of-desire motif of the movie as a personified transferal of the book’s undercurrent theme of android-fixation as literal commodity fetishism; and post-vaudevillian visionary Trav S.D. as 24-hour talkshow-host tranquilizer Buster Friendly slides into the role as if his very skin and vocal-cords were formed from polyester.

... Einhorn has truly endeavored to connect with the story and the people at its center, and found their humanity.”

Adam McGovern
Comic Critique

"I really recommend it ... Don't you love a play that sends you to the novel?"

Michael Portantiere
Broadway Stars

Reviews of the LA production

Technology and theatre don’t always mix well with the flash often becoming an end unto itself. Here the artistic and technical crews complement one another seamlessly.

Henry Akona‘s haunting score, heard through recordings, offer instrumentals that frame the story. The songs in the Pierrot Lunaire style sung by the appropriately named Luna Luft (Emily Kosloski) are a matter of taste but should be popular with the young people.

It all goes well beyond the recursive ‘guess the robot’ game and into the heart of memory, empathy, and what we think sets humans apart from other life and mechanistic approximations of life. The production clocks in at a crisp ninety minutes with no intermission and leaves us wanting more.

Ravi Narasimhan

Any adaptation of a novel is a compromise of approximation whose objective should be to faithfully capture the spirit and ideas of the prose in a dramatically compelling way. Which is why Philip K. Dick fans, who have repeatedly suffered the indignity of having their favorite sci-fi author plundered by dumbed-down Hollywood blockbusters, will cheer adapter Edward Einhorn's 2010, high-fidelity transliteration of Dick's wryly ironic, psychedelic, 1968 hall of mirrors. The time is a war-ravaged future in which the question of what it means to be human has been vastly complicated by a band of renegade androids passing themselves off as flesh-and-blood (it’s the source material for Blade Runner). Freelance assassin Rick Deckard, a man who relies on a mood device to feel anything at all, is charged with weeding the imposters from the populace via administering “empathy tests” and summary execution. Suffice it to say that nothing is what it seems. Jaime Robledo's inventively cinematic staging and an unusually fine ensemble capture all the nuanced terms of Dick’s allegory.

Bill Raden
LA Weekly