As so often is the case in America we’ve been trained to pronounce machinal the incorrect way. It’s mash-in-all, not mack-in-al. This rarely seen play, Machinal, by Sophie Treadwell is on Broadway for the first time since 1928. I’ve been told that it’s produced mostly in academic settings nowadays which is unfortunate because it’s incredible. 

Machinal is about the daily grind of every day life in America in the early 1900’s. Get up, travel to work, do the same thing every day at work, travel home, eat, go to bed. The “Young Woman,” played by the tremendously talented Rebecca Hall, is stuck supporting and living with her mother and she is going out of her mind. As a means of escape, she agrees to marry her boss and have his children. This gives way to a new brand of monotony that she still can’t stand. After a chance run-in with a free spirited man she knows that she has to get out (not to be with him, but just to be on her own) by any means necessary.

Much of the dialogue in Machinal is repetitive, at times rhythmic and at other times monotonous. Rebecca Hall delivers two or three quick paced and seen-to-be-believed monologues which stunned us as an audience.

The scenes are called, in order, To Business, Home, Honeymoon, Maternal, Prohibited, Intimate, Domestic, The Law, and A Machine. Sounds like a pretty machine-like life to me.

The set, by Es Devlin, was jaw-dropping. In a square box that rotated onstage to show different scenes, it truly felt like a cog in a machine was turning. The set was really amazing.

Clocking in at 90 minutes, I think probably more than one person in the audience could relate to Machinal and the machine-like way of life that a lot of people adopt for better or for worse. And why sometimes we need to break out of it.

Hats off to you, Roundabout. This is one of my favorite productions of yours to date.

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