Machinal at the American Airlines
Last night actress Rebecca Hall and the Roundabout Theater Company previewed Sophie Treadwell’s 1928 play Machinal at New York City’s American Airlines Theater. Since its induction in 1965, the Roundabout Theater has generated over 188 Tony nominations, 183 Drama Desk nominations, and 203 Outer Critics Circle nominations. During the late 1990s the company paired with American Airlines to restore the Selwyn Theater, which now acts as their current home. Located on 42nd street in the middle of NYC’s theater district, Machinal promises to be a major contender this theatrical season.
Machinal is derived from the archaic French term machinalis, which means “of or pertaining to” part of a machine; in contemporary terms, a cog. Treadwell’s story follows one such cog in the form of a young woman living in 1920s New York. She works at an advertising agency where her much older boss falls in love with her, and lives with her unwaveringly traditional Mother. In the young woman’s eyes, both are unacceptable ways of life – but the only way to get by in the 1920s world, it seems. After marriage to the boss, which pleases her poverty stricken mother and new husband, the young woman searches for any means of escape from this machine-like life.
Rebecca Hall leads the narrative as a frankly uncomfortable young woman. Her nature is erratic and emotionally jarring, but worthily sympathetic. Hall, who received the Ian Charleston Award for A Winter’s Tale and an Evening Standard Award nomination for The Cherry Orchard, proves in the performance that she more than understands the compromised heroine of Treadwell’s piece.
In supporting efforts, overaged husband/boss Michael Cumpsty and telephone girl/friend Ashley Bell rise to prominence. Cumpsty, of End of the Rainbow fame, is appropriately calculated enough in character to please any viewer and agitate any wife. Equally, Bell is as funny as she is entertaining to watch.
Roundabout artistic director Todd Haimes and director Lyndsey Turner adapt a 1928 theater piece and make it a new millennium spectacular. Despite running the risk of cliché, the Roundabout Company creates a living theatrical performance despite the dead world within the show’s stuffy setting. Machinal, though certainly macabre, succeeds in presentation and reverberating effect, as reflection lasts long after the play’s conclusion.
Machinal runs January 21st – 31st at the American Airlines Theater, 227 West 42nd Street, for further information visit here.