By Kimberly Ortiz
Audiences experienced mind-twisting, emotional drama when witnessing the cryptic story of one unnamed woman in Sophie Treadwell’s Machinal during the weekend of Feb. 25.
Machinal, inspired by the 1928 execution of convicted murderer Ruth Snyder, is a story of death and breaking free. The play, directed by associate professor of theater Miriam Mills, not only portrayed the story of a woman being convicted of murder, but also included a visual aspect with the addition of Mills’ movement chorus. This innovation enhanced the connection between the audience and the main character, Young Woman, making it feel as if the audience could truly see through her eyes.
The play began with the movement group and Young Woman (played by freshman theater performance major Mary Foster), making an entrance that audiences were sure to remember. This was just the beginning of the deep and emotional roller coaster that the Young Woman would ride. Foster successfully portrayed the emotion and physicality of her character that surely left a mark for audiences.
Taking place during the beginning of the technological era, the late 1920s, the play concerns is a stenographer who always seems to show up late to work and receives criticism and hate from her co-workers, who tell her she will lose her job because of her tardiness. However, the only thing that keeps her holding on to her job is her relationship with the boss of the company she works for (played by junior musical theater major Colby Dezelick), who pursues and marries her. Dezelick’s big, bold actions brought an excellent sense of pride to his character. His overbearing personality and abusive ways of “loving” his cringing wife ultimately cause her to not only fear him, but to hate her life and even her own mother (played by junior theater performance major Sloan Brettholtz).
The relationships seen in the play are tested when the Young Woman’s husband rapes her, resulting in a child. However, in the hospital, it becomes clear she not only fears her husband when he comes to visit her, but she also fears her child and ultimately herself. This is just one of the many anxieties that haunt her throughout the play, which are expressed in several powerful and mind-boggling monologues.
Throughout the sadness and drama that occurs during the play, the Young Woman finds hope, and she is finally able to find joy in her dark world. This happiness stems from a new relationship with her lover (played by junior theater performance major Igor R. Correa Wetter) rather than her husband. Correa Wetter created a believable character as her illicit lover. Music also played a role in these scenes, not only allowing a greater dramatic and emotional experience, but also providing a playful yet meaningful moment between Young Woman and her lover. Correa Wetter and Foster were able to successfully bring their own musical talents to enhance the Young Woman and her lover’s romantic scene.
After a series of events occur between the Young Woman and her husband involving more of his controlling and demanding ways, the Young Woman decides that she is tired and emotionally drained from dealing with his abuse. The way Foster was able to strongly focus on her character’s anger truly made the audience believe that she really was out to kill her husband. When she finally does, the suspense of the scene, along with the captivating sound effects and lighting, had audience members on the edge of their seats, anxiously awaiting what was to come.
The Young Woman’s next appearance onstage was one that would determine the verdict of the play. Set in a courtroom full of witnesses, attorneys and journalists, the Young Woman’s fate is ultimately going to be for the worse. In the end, it is Young Woman’s lover who gives away the clues that lead to the real truth of her killing her husband.
From saying her final goodbye to her heartbroken mother to being led to her execution through constant prayer by a priest (played by sophomore musical theater major Braden Sweeney), who wants her to have a blessed death, the Young Woman’s death draws nearer and nearer as she cries out with pain before her execution even begins. With the help of a talented singing cellmate (played by junior musical theater major Milika Griffiths), the walk leading her to the electric chair not only brought suspense to the scene, but also allowed the hearts of the audience to go out to this sorrowful woman, even though she is guilty of her crime.
As the Young Woman is led to the chair that kills her, Foster successfully carried out the final scene from the moment she sat down to the very last second of the play where she goes into a state of shock, leading to the final blackout.
Although Machinal portrays pain and abuse, the elements of love, freedom, and fighting for a cause are what tie the play together to bring a powerful performance by each of the actors.
Printed in the 3/4/15 edition.