Tuesday, January 07, 2014


The brilliant revival of Machinal, Sophie Treadwell's expressionistic 1928 dissection of a woman's life, climbs off the stage and under your skin. This nerve-rattling production is directed by Lyndsey Turner, who has worked closely with a superb team of designers and a strong cast to bring the plight of the Young Woman (she and the other characters are never named) to vivid, multidimensional, heartbreaking, claustrophobic life.

The strength of the production is apparent from its first seconds, as the Young Woman travels on a crowded train, which somehow is convincingly right there, on stage, as noisy and overwhelming as the actual subways that run far below the theatre. The show continues to present an almost miraculous amount of realistic emotion through its expressionistic means.

The story, inspired by the tale of the real-life husband-murderer Ruth Snyder, is simple, and unfortunately still relevant in many women's lives. The Young Woman is expected always to put herself last, and she mostly does, as each of the people and situations in her life fail her, from her mother to her husband to her lover to being a mother herself. Even women who have had many more options--myself included--can feel her plight in our bones, particularly as presented in this superb production. I imagine many men can, too.

In all fairness, I should mention that I found this show painful and unpleasant to sit through, although I admired it from the first. As time has passed, my respect for it has grown, leading to this rave review. Despite the show's unpleasantness, I am grateful to have seen it for the brilliance of the work.

I have picked up the cast and crew information from the Roundabout website, and reproduced it below. Theatre is the most collaborative of arts, and all of the people listed deserve kudos.

(last row, highly discounted ticket) 

Cast: Rebecca Hall, Young Woman; Suzanne Bertish, Mother;  Michael Cumpsty,Husband; Morgan Spector, Lover. Company: Damian Baldet, Ashley Bell, Jeff Biehl, Arnie Burton, Ryan Dinning, Scott Drummond, Dion Graham, Edward James Hyland, Jason Loughlin, Maria-Christina Oliveras, Daniel Pearce, Henny Russell, Karen Walsh, and Michael Warner. 

Creative Team:  Sophie Treadwell, Playwright; Lyndsey Turner, Director; Es Devlin, Set Designer; Michael Krass, Costume Designer; Jane Cox, Lighting Designer; Matt Tierney, Sound Designer; Matthew Herbert, Original Music; Paul Huntley, Hair and Wig Design; Kate Wilson, Dialect Coach; Sam Pinkleton, Choreography; and Beverly Jenkins, Production Stage Manager.

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