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Machinal

Machinal

By Sophie Treadwell

Directed by Chris Holcom

June 2 – 18, 2005

Shimberg Playhouse, Straz Center for the Performing Arts

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What It's About

A 1928 Broadway hit and a classic of early 20th century feminist theater, Machinal is an expressionistic modern age tragedy of isolation turned to murder. The play, Sophie Treadwell said, is about “a young woman, ready, eager for life, for love… but deadened, squeezed, crushed by the machine like quality of the life surrounding.”

Loosely based on the sensational 1927 murder trial of Ruth Snyder (the first woman put to death by the electric chair) and set against an industrial landscape, Treadwell uses this scenario as a springboard for her own speculations about what circumstances might drive a seemingly harmless stenographer to commit murder in a male-dominated, mechanized, materialistic world.

Helen, Treadwell’s emotionally fragile fictionalized version of Snyder is indeed an ordinary woman, but Machinal remains an extraordinarily powerful and richly theatrical play. However, the play about her was hardly the first to take a hard-edged look at individuality drowned by the cacophony of a harsh world.

By the time Machinal opened on Broadway (starring a young actor by the name of Clark Gable), Elmer Rice’s The Adding Machine, had already dramatized the regimentation of middle class life in an industrialized and money-oriented society, also in an expressionistic style. Theodore Dreiser’s Sister Carrie and An American Tragedy were also about ordinary women who became the pivotal figures of modern American versions of Greek tragedies. Treadwell was, however, the first woman to write such a tragedy. Her perspective from deep inside the feminine psyche and her striking style gave Machinal its groundbreaking originality and emotional resonance when it premiered on Broadway.

Jobsite has had great success in recent years with stylized, feminist plays such as Caryl Churchill’s Cloud Nine and Paula Vogel’s The Mineola Twins and hopes that this incredibly rich, layered production is no exception. It will be performed without updating and set in the period it was written in. All elements of production are collaborating conceptually to achieve a sepia, film-noir feel.

(L-R) Dena Cousins and Michael C. McGreevy in Jobsite's Machinal. (Photo: Brian Smallheer.)

So intense, so self-contained and so provocative in its strange poetry and youthful bursts of dry wit that you hang on the story... from first minute to last. – Chicago Sun-Times

Critic Reviews

It's a beautiful show, with strong acting all around.... Jobsite's production, directed by Chris Holcom, is superb. – Weekly Planet

Think Theodore Dreiser meets Brazil.... Dena Cousins - whose face and diction wouldn't have been out of place in the '20s - is riveting as the increasingly fragile heroine. – Tampa Tribune

The play could scarcely seem more urgent, and the current impressionistic staging preserves the harshness and the absurdist elements that helped make the play a highly respected Broadway success in its day.... – St. Petersburg Times

News

Cast & Crew

  • Chris Holcom – Director

Cast

  • Dena Cousins – Helen
  • Careena Cornette – Ensemble
  • Jason Evans – Ensemble
  • Josh Hamel – Ensemble
  • Caroline Jett – Ensemble
  • Michael C. McGreevy – Ensemble
  • Stephen Ray – Ensemble
  • Katrina Stevenson – Ensemble

Crew

  • Dickie Corley – Light/Sound Designer
  • Roz Potenza – Costume Designer
  • Ami Sallee – Assistant Director / Dramaturge
  • Katrina Stevenson – Costume Designer
  • Brian M. Smallheer – Technical Director/ Scenic Designer

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