“The Adding Machine” In WestCo This Weekend: Sometimes Progress is Absurd
Assuming you don’t have much going on this weekend, why not remedy that aimless WesFest boredom with a little expressionist drama? If you enjoy the company of prefrosh (and who doesn’t?), join an entire audience full of them this weekend at sophomore Kirby Sokolow’s directorial debut, “The Adding Machine.”
The show focuses on Mr. Zero (Joe Gargan ’14), an unsavory protagonist who is fired from his job as a casualty of the technological developments permeating the corporate world. In a fit of rage, Zero makes a snap decision that puts him in dire straits for the rest of the show. What begins as a seemingly innocuous period piece rears its surrealist head as the play unfolds.
“It’s bizarre and absurdist,” said Amara Davila ’13, who plays the role of Mrs. Zero, a neglected housewife.
In one scene, a tour group observes a criminal on death row as though he were a museum exhibit, commenting on his state with disturbing lightheartedness. In the interest of spoiler prevention, I’ll keep my mouth shut about the other absurd aspects of the show.
“The Adding Machine” opens with a haunting sample from the score of the film “Atonement” and the sound of a typewriter—in this case, it represents the sound of an “adding machine.” A series of interesting lighting and musical choices highlight the absurdity of the play’s circumstances, though the Westco Café’s environment may prevent the audience from receiving their full impact.
A team of talented actors pulls off realistic and emotional performances under the constraints of surreal circumstances. Davila and Gargan approach the lead roles with gusto, with Davila’s spirited monologues highlighting the shortcomings of her husband’s character. Other standouts include Michael Firer ’13 as the jaded Lieutenant Charles, Coz Deicke ’15 as a contemplative Mr. Shrdlu, and Christine Treuhold ’13, whose investment in her role as Daisy Devore heightens the sincerity of the entire production.
The show features a capable ensemble that will definitely elicit a few laughs. Actor Nick Guthrie ’15 found that he was able to relate to his character despite the show’s absurdity.
“I really blame Kirby for typecasting this show,” he joked. “I play a really awesome guy, and I’m really awesome in real life.”
Written after World War I, “The Adding Machine” is not only an abstract theatrical endeavor, but also a portrait and criticism of an age of violence.
“The idea is being a slave to society—to the machine,” Sokolow said.
Additionally, themes of racism and sexism pervade the script.
“Nothing goes well for any characters,” Deicke said. “If there’s a moment when anything goes well, by the end of the scene, that gets fucked up.”
Prepare to be caught off guard by the juxtaposition of occasionally long-winded scenes with major shifts in setting and tone. Despite the density of the script, however, Sokolow does a great job translating it into a cohesive production that remains in tune with her vision for the show.
“There are a lot of intricacies I wanted to bring out,” she said.
As for the standard WesFest audience of prefrosh?
“This is the show that people who are interested in theater are gonna see,” Deicke said. “We want to show them what Wesleyan can do.”
Whether or not you’re familiar with what these thespians can do, hop on down to the freezing lair more commonly known as the WestCo Café this Thursday at 8 p.m. or Saturday at either 2 p.m. or 8 p.m. to get in on the action.