By JULIE DRAKE
Valley Press Staff Writer
Antelope Valley College Theatre Arts Department presents “Machinal,” a dramatization based on the real-life case of convicted murderer Ruth Snyder, for two weekends at the AVC Performing Arts Theatre.
The 91-year-old expressionist drama features themes that fit well in the modern world,
“It deals with kind of the machinery of life and the feeling of being a woman at the time, entering the workforce but feeling like a cog in the machine,” Director Jeff Wienckowski said.
Playwright Sophie Treadwell, a former journalist, wrote “Machinal” after she attended Snyder’s sensational New York City trial in 1927. The play opened on Broadway on Sept. 7, 1928 and closed on Nov. 24, 1928, after 91 performances.
“Machinal” features the nameless Young Woman who feels unfulfilled and trapped in her life. The character lives with her mother and marries her boss as a means of escape, yet finds herself in another trap, altogether.
“It’s from the Expressionist era, so the language is really interesting,” Wienckowski said.
Treadwell uses language in a poetic way. Even though the play is more than 90 years old, He said the play resonates with a lot of things people are feeling today.
“We tried really hard with the actors to build the suspense,” Wienckowski said.
“‘Machinal’” undoubtedly has mature themes. The play is considered a groundbreaking expressionistic play with emotional extremes, where external reality is viewed through a subjective filter.
“I think of it as a story that needs to be told in this day and age,” Producer and costume designer Suzanne Wakefield said. “The themes, themselves, are still things that we are still coming upon in 2019, 2020: Women trying to be in these assumed roles and whether or not we truly identify with that role as a woman. Are we allowed to expand ourselves away from that role and is society OK with that?”
Young Woman is actress Audrey Gibbs’ first leading role and her second play. Young Woman is a complicated character, Gibbs acknowledged.
“It is a challenge, but it’s interesting how you can find elements of yourself even in such a dark character,” she said. “Things that you barely see come to the surface, actually come to fruition, so it can be scary at times. It’s a part of yourself that you don’t like seeing.”
Actor Josh Bradley plays George Jones, the Young Woman’s husband.
“It has themes of loneliness, depression and anxiety and that’s a root feeling of a lot of people, no matter what era you’re in. That need of escape, to feel free, that’s a huge theme,” he said.
Actress Cecs Altobelli plays the Young Woman’s mother.
“I was fascinated by the story of Ruth Snyder and what she went through,” she said. “Very inspiring that she was in conflict with what was socially acceptable and she wanted to go out, break out on her own and be away from the norms. A very courageous person. Unfortunately, she made a bad choice, but it was a choice that brought her such joy for such a short time.”
Actor Joshua Daniel plays First Man.
“This is my first play, ever,” he said. “It’s really exciting. I like my character. I wouldn’t do the things that he does … It’s a complicated guy, complicated play.”
“Machinal” will be on stage at 8 p.m., Nov. 8, 9, 15 and 16, and at 2 p.m. Nov. 17. Tickets cost $12 for general admission and $8 for seniors, students and AVC staff. Free military with ID.
Strobe lights and haze effects will be used for these performances.
For details, call 661-722-6580 or visit the box office at 3041 West Ave. K, Lancaster.