Dial R for Robot follows the plot of Hitchcock's Rope. Two young cybernetics students (Decker Shaw and Tyrell Byerly) study with Professor Rupert Cadell, who is in the running to win the Loebner prize in robotics. They feel threatened by a realistic humanoid robot, CJ, built by rival students studying with their professor's colleague, Professor Lee Sajous, who also hopes to win the prize. Decker and Tyrell get hold of the robot CJ and destroy its personality circuits with a wireless charging mat and a power cable. They document the deed with photographs snapped on CJ's mobile phone.
Gloating, they host a gamers' party using the dead robot CJ's positronic brain as the game server, and using CJ's microchips as chandelier dangles and Christmas tree ornaments. They invite Professor Cadell, Professor Lee, and a pair of rival students to their gamers' party. The game they play is based on Hitchcock's spy thriller Torn Curtain.
During a pre- and post-game debate, Professor Cadell maintains that there is no harm in viewing violence in film or other media, as 1) humans can tell the difference between real actions and fantasy; and 2) robots like CJ are incapable of harming sentient beings, according to Asimov's Laws of Robotics. Professor Lee asks whether that would include harming other humanoid robots, and whether a robot could develop a learned behavior of violence towards humans by failing to understand the difference between make-believe and real life.
Throughout the party, as guests wonder where CJ could be, Tyrell becomes increasingly distraught, as the implications of what they have done become clear. His paranoia increases as he becomes convinced that the other guests have worked out what became of CJ. Meanwhile, Decker remains steely.
After the party guests have left, Professor Cadell realizes he took the wrong mobile phone, and returns to their apartment alone. When the professor hints at what he knows about CJ's fate, Tyrell and Decker must decide where their true loyalties lie as the action reaches its explosive climax.
One of the central themes of Dial R for Robot is that moral systems directly reflect the cultures that spawn them. A culture that glorifies violence in certain contexts finds it difficult to set boundaries on that brutality. Instead, violent behavior spreads to become the norm in more aspects of life. We received an anguishing reminder of this fact just three weeks before opening night, when a gunman killed 49 people and wounded 53 more in an Orlando night club. Changing our culture is up to all of us. We dedicate our performances of Dial R for Robot to the victims of June 12, 2016, and we have invited the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence to join us in meeting our audience before each show. Please help us change our world.