Sunday, September 3, 2017

REVIEW: The Zombiesque Acquiescence of Machinal

Chi, IL LIVE Shows On Our Radar:

Greenhouse Theater Center Presents 
By Sophie Treadwell
Directed by Artistic Director Jacob Harvey
Movement by Elizabeth Margolius 

Cogs in the machine... Get in gear... We're all familiar with the idioms describing humanity working repetitive day jobs, and people are often expected to behave and conform with machinelike precision. Yet, mechanical behavior in the emotional realm is considered a defect to be overcome, a mental illness. Machinal is an intriguing exploration into the intersection where infamous murderess, Ruth Snyder's longing for the freedom of choice, anxiety, and highly sensory tendencies cause the breakdown of the machine and send her hurtling toward the electric chair. 

The stylized cadence of the production is as key as what's said. It catapults the audience into the chaotic yet controlled rhythms of the work place, and the repetitive inevitability of family relationships and responsibilities. Even though this is a period piece it's absolutely applicable today, and possibly even more so, as our society has become even more mechanized, and frenetic. 

Women are still marrying out of economic desperation and fear, people still suffer panic attacks when crushed on an over capacity "L" train, or are overwhelmed by smells or claustrophobic spaces, many women still have postpartum depression and difficulty bonding with their newborns, but at least it has a name, and a course of treatment. 

In Machinal, following the status quo of marrying rich and becoming a mother, brought misery and an almost inevitability of a feeling of imprisonment and an irrepressible longing to be free. This play was stunning for it's alternate bouts of flatline, almost zombiesque acquiescence, and fits of passion and rage. The husband's enjoyment of his wife flinching and mistaking her revulsion at his touch for chastity and demureness was particularly striking. 

The heroine's body reflected her true self and her emotions amid crushing compromises, recoiling from her mother's repetitive nagging, gagging at her husband's presence, rejecting a baby she never wanted, questioning religion, and ultimately resorting to adultery and murder. All this was done without premeditation, greed, or cunning, and on the stand she was unable to lie even to save her own life. In a stunning paradox, as she faces the electric chair, instead of repenting, she reflects on the absurdity that she was punished severely for the only moments in her life she felt free and fully alive. As she rages against the machine, events in Machinal seem to unfold with a flowing inevitability. This is an excellent, thought provoking production, and well worth seeing. Highly recommended.

Click HERE for further cast bios, show information, and ticket purchasing.

Now Playing Through September 24, 2017

Presented Through an Educational Partnership with 
North Central College 

Greenhouse Theater Center is pleased to launch its 2017-18 season with Artistic Director Jacob Harvey and Elizabeth Margolius’ bold reimagining of Sophie Treadwell's most celebrated play, MACHINAL. Inspired by the surreal life and trial of famed murderess Ruth Snyder, MACHINAL will play now – September 24, 2017 at The Greenhouse Theater Center (Upstairs Main Stage), 2257 N. Lincoln Ave. in Chicago. 

Regular run: through Sunday, September 24, 2017
Curtain times: Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 pm; Sundays at 2:30 pm.

Tickets: $35. Students: $15. 

Single tickets and season subscription packages are currently available at, in person at the box office or by calling (773) 404-7336. 

About the Greenhouse Theater Center
The Greenhouse Theater Center is a producing theater company, performance venue and theatre bookstore located at 2257 N. Lincoln Ave. in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood. Our mission is first and foremost to grow local theatre.

The Greenhouse Theater began its producing life in 2014 with the smash hit Churchill, after which came 2016’s much-lauded Solo Celebration!, an 8 month, 16 event series highlighting the breadth and depth of the solo play form. This year, the Greenhouse announced a full subscription season, with a mix of multi-character and solo plays. With a focus on our community, the Greenhouse is also launching the Trellis playwriting residency, an initiative designed to cultivate the next generation of Chicago theatre creators and a two-tiered education program for college and high school students.

As a performance venue, our complex offers two newly remodeled 190-seat main stage spaces, two 60-seat studio theaters, two high-capacity lobbies, and an in-house rehearsal room. We strive to cultivate a fertile environment for local artists, from individual renters to our bevy of resident companies, and to develop and produce their work. In 2016, the Greenhouse announced a new residency program, which offers a reduced rate to local storefront companies while giving the Greenhouse a stake in the resident’s success. We house Chicago’s only dedicated used theatre bookstore, located on the second floor of our complex. 

With new ideas always incubating, the Greenhouse is flourishing. Come grow with us!

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