Friday, January 24, 2014

Machinal @ The American Airlines Theatre

     Have you ever wondered how far past the breaking point you could be pushed? How long you could function in the machine of life before short-circuiting? The Machinal by American playwright Sophia Treadwell explores just that as the inspired story of the real life case of convicted and executed murderer, Ruth Snyder. 

     Starring Golden Globe nominee Rebecca Hall as Ruth Snyder and directed by Lyndsey Turner, The Machinal is a gripping drama that presents itself as a contemporary piece well beyond the period it was written in. 

Under the pressure of society’s beliefs and her overbearing mother’s eye, Ruth(Hall) agrees to marry a man that physically repels her. After meeting a handsome stranger, played by Morgan Spector though, Ruth discovers the joys of love and realizes she can no longer keep pretending freedom. In an act of desperation, she bludgeons her husband to death which leads to her arrest, conviction, and eventual execution.

    Rebecca Hall’s performance was stellar. Not only did she tackle monologues that would make any actor cringe to do live, but she did it with such a mixture of vulnerability and strength that one could not help but move forward to the edge of one’s seat. During the course of the one hour and 30 minute process that it took to go from the start of her loveless marriage to her heartbreaking execution, Hall managed to engage the audience’s sympathy, while at the same time repelling them with her mannerisms and quirks. From the moment the curtain goes up, she draws the audience into what we realize is her point of view. At once the audience is bombarded with a script that moves quicker than a train. 

    While this show is very much about Ruth, an ensemble rich in personalities and talent must be mentioned. Each person in the ensemble is at once unique and yet an integral part of the machine. Michael Cumpsty was perfect as Ruth’s Husband. Full of pompous cliches, he was so repulsive I wanted to murder him myself. 

    Sam Pinkleton’s choreography was a joy to watch. Matt Tierney’s sound design was haunting and complimented each scene perfectly. But by far the most interesting tech was provided by Olivier-award winning set designer, Es Devlin. Her revolving stage provided a world that was awe-inspiring. Between her set and Jane Cox’s lighting designs, I cannot imagine the play would have been as intense. 

   The Machinal opened at The American Airlines Theatre on 227 West 42nd Street and plays through March 2. Get your tickets now

Photos By:Joan Marcus

Review By: Aziza Seven

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