photo: Carol Rosegg
Arriving off-Broadway after great acclaim in Chicago, this production of a new musical adaptation of the 1923 Elmer Rice play adheres uncompromisingly to its strong visual style: from the dark drudgery of the accounting office where Mister Zero spends twenty five years before an adding machine makes him obsolete, to the show's final setting in which the human characters are dwarfed by machinery, every design detail is purposeful and effective. The cast, forming a cohesive ensemble with well-judged period-accurate performances, are also one with the show's bleak and Expressionistic vision, and the musical's insistent, often atonal score (by Joshua Schmidt) is focused on telling this serious, cautonary story with steadfast determination. The show's accomplishments are obvious and numerous, and yet - after my initial excitement over the first half hour or so (which is mostly focused on Mister Zero's monotonous job and unpleasant home life) and its Pennies From Heaven vibe- I sank into a state of boredom in my seat. The music does phenomenally well when depicting the soul-crushing dullness of Zero's home and workplace, but after that it's too much of the same. And while the show is faithful to the events of the original play, it misses or misjudges most of the dark wit because of its singular determination to be "serious". It doesn't start out that way, but by the end The Adding Machine becomes a museum piece to be admired more than enjoyed.
Also blogged by: [Aaron]