Thursday September 21st 2017

“Machinal”

In 1928, Ruth Snyder and Henry Judd Gray were sentenced to death by electric chair for the murder of Albert Snyder, Ruth Snyder’s husband! watching the celebrities and the trial was Sophie Treadwell, a writer for one of the papers. As we learned, she did not come to the trial to report on the proceedings, but rather to better understand how a woman could commit murder. Even more important, the murder of her husband. Less than a year after, Ms Treadwell’s “Machinal” , opened on Broadway.

While “Machinal” is based on the event that shocked the world, the play’s main character “young woman” (marvelously brought to life by Heather Chrisler ) has more heart and soul than one could anticipate from the knowledge of the actual event. Her life is somewhat mechanical, and her life with her mother ( Carin Silkaitis) undesirable. Her job, also is very routine and when the play opens, the ensemble is gathered center-stage answering phones for “big-business” and gossiping about her and her boss, who does become her husband ( deftly handled by Sean Gallagher).

The ensemble members are: Maddie Deporter, Sarah Rachel Schol, Scott Shimizu, Maddie Burke, Jonah Winston and Paul Michael Thompson. They are asked to take on many roles, with very little change, except the tone and quality of their voice and body language. Directory Jacob Harvey understands the strength of the story he is being asked to bring to the audiences at The Greenhouse Theater Center ,and through his brilliant interpretation, we have 90 minutes of solid theater!

The other actor in the production is Cody Proctor who plays the Young Woman’s “lover”, to perfection! The movement director is Elizabeth Margolius, and I feel it might be fitting to call her a choreographer due to the precise movement and patterns that she has created. The show has very little set (which might have distracted from the solid performance art we are watching) and it works just fine. The lighting (Eric Watkins) offers the effects that Harvey desired to bring to us , and the sound and original music (Jeffrey Levin) at times is breathtaking! The costumes by Christina Leinieke are very “period”. This is a slick production that asks an audience to pay very close attention to the story and the way it is told. While it is not poetry, it is poetic as we watch an exploration of how life was, knowing that today’s world has changed.

The Young Woman was held captive, first by her mother, who used her and then by her boss, who also used and abused her. Life, back in those days did not offer a woman the choices that they have today, so in the case of this Young Woman, she had to decide what to do to escape those who held her in bay. I do not want to show all the cards, so I will leave it at that.

The production of “Machinal” is being done as an education partnership between North Central College and The Greenhouse Theater allowing students to shadow the professional actors in “understudy” roles. Other students will be involved in the other production aspects of bringing a show from script to stage for audience approval. The understudy cast will perform for a high school audience and once for the public. What an amazing opportunity!

“Machinal” will continue at The Greenhouse Theater Center, located at 2257 N. Lincoln Avenue, second floor-mainstage, thru September 24th with performances as follows:

Thursdays  7:30 p.m.

Fridays  7:30 p.m.

Saturdays  7:30 p.m.

Sundays  2:30 p.m.

Tickets are $35 and students  $15. They can be purchased at the box office, by calling 773-404-7336 or online at www.greenhousetheater.org

Street parking is metered and “zoned”, but there are still spaces usable at the Children’s Hospital garage just North of the theater.

To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-Up and click at “Machinal”.

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