'Machinal' stands out in Bradley
When most students see the second floor of Bradley, they see dust, outdated color tones and water damage on the ceiling. But when director Mariah May '04 and her technical team looked at it, they saw potential. They saw what those who were fortunate enough to attend a performance of "Machinal" this weekend saw -- the hallway transformed into a theater with lights and a minimalist set.
Written in 1928, Sophie Treadwell's "Machinal" is a play ahead of its time. In the age of a financial upswing that seemed unstoppable, Treadwell's story of a young secretary whose golden life turns bad might have been hard to relate to. But for later generations, May believes, the theme is more powerful than ever.
The Young Woman, played by Sarah Sirota '04, seems to have it all. She becomes engaged to a well-to-do businessman and has a child within the year. But under the surface, amid all her outward acquiescence, she is a woman suffocating, crying out for freedom and adventure.
In Friday night's performance, Sirota brought the despair of her character directly to the audience. Every moment, the audience was left to wonder whether the Young Woman would ever gain control of her life.
At last, the Young Woman finds a chance to suck the marrow out of life, and for the first time she plays a role in her own fate by beginning an affair with a bohemian she meets in a bar. After that, her mundane role as the wife of a businessman begins to wear on her. The last scenes of the play put Sirota first on the witness stand in her own murder trial and then on death row, moments before she is executed for murdering her husband.
Sirota's portrayal of the Young Woman was not the only highlight. Thom Pasculli '05 played the ever-cheerful Mr. J, Sirota's husband, with effortless mastery. Karisa Bruin '05, Jeff Dwyer '02, Matt Goodman '06 and Nicole Yokum '05 filled out an outstanding ensemble cast. Dwyer gave a particularly convincing performance as the Young Woman's lover.
All the actors except Sirota wore simple black outfits so the Young Woman would stand out against her background. May made use of the constricting space in Bradley to emphasize her theme. The warped tiles behind the actors became part of the drab, sterile set. The movement of the actors -- so mechanized, so rigid -- stood out starkly from the soft, gentle physicality of Sirota's character.
The gripping production left the audience with a chill encouragement to "never accept their own cages" -- one of May's goals for the production. The Displaced Theater Company has once again proven the relevance and vitality of the stage to its audience.
"The issues that the Young Woman faced in 'Machinal' are the issues that people face today," dramaturg Mark Orsini '04 said. "There is huge societal pressure that dictates how we are supposed to behave and the roles that we are supposed to fill. This show challenges the norms and demonstrates the need for change."