A panhandler’s pitch is not entirely unlike a solo theater performance. The panhandler gets your attention, and tries to hold it and stir your emotions enough that you’ll have mercy and give him a few bucks. The pitch may be autobiographical (“I was in ‘Nam, and now I’m on the street”), it may be political (“The stimulus package didn’t do anything for me”), it may play with the conventions of the genre (“Let’s be honest, I just want to get drunk”).
In Do Not Kill Me, Killer Robots!, Ben Egerman played his Fringe slot as a similarly desperate plea with his audience—but he wasn’t asking for money, or even for good reviews, he was begging us to spare his life, for we are killer robots. Actually, he didn’t need to beg, because he revealed that he’d discovered a flaw in our programming: though we aspire to murder all humans, we are unable to kill during solo performances. As long as he could keep up his act, he’d be safe.
Having been forced to improvise props while evading killer robots of unknown origin, Egerman did the best he could with some sheets of cardboard and a Sharpie. It was a valiant effort, and he succeeded in holding us off for nearly an hour with stories (a one-man reprise of his ten-minute play The Loneliest Astronaut, seen this spring at Bedlam’s 20 10 Fest), skits (kitten vs. shark), and general antsiness. He must have appeased the killer robots a couple of weeks ago at the Capital Fringe in Washington, D.C., because they gave him the audience award for best solo performance.
The rowdy robots who packed the Playwrights’ Center on Friday night, though, weren’t going to let him off so easily—eventually, he ran out of material and we moved in for the kill. Only the good die young.