Abbey Players Present “Machinal”

October 30, 2018

By Kerrin Norton '19

Beginning on Thursday, November 8 at 7:30 p.m., the Anselmian Abbey Players will return to the stage at the Dana Center for the Humanities to present Machinal, the first major production of their 70th season at Saint Anselm College. Performances will continue on November 9 and 10.

Sophie Treadwell’s Machinal, inspired by the story of the infamous 1927 murder trial of Ruth Snyder, explores America’s Golden Age, delving into traditional gender roles and the illusion of choice in modern society by exploring the life of a woman trapped in the roles of wife, mother, and housekeeper.

The play is directed by English professor and Anselmian Abbey Players advisor Landis K. Magnuson, associate director and English and philosophy double major Cole Crusciel ’20, and assistant director and criminal justice major Kayla Marino ’20. It features a twelve-person ensemble, starring Nicole Sherwood ’21 (history major), Aidan Lewis ’21 (undeclared), and Ian Read ’21 (classical archaeology) as the infamous murderess, her lover, and her husband respectively.

Treadwell’s Machinal was initially performed on Broadway in September of 1928, a mere eight months after Snyder’s execution in January. Written from her perspective, the show offers audience members a glimpse into the journey of a woman into a murderess, allowing a look into her mind and highlighting her conflicting needs, wants, and desires.

Broken into episodes, rather than scenes, the American expressionist work emphasizes the Industrial Revolution during which it was written. “Machinal is French for ‘machine’, and we are truly taking that to the nth degree,” said Magnuson. He added that even scene changes are performed in a robotic manner, with only 90-degree turns and stiff movements, and that the sounds of a 20th-century factory fill the theatre during pauses and changes. The all-encompassing commitment of the Abbey Players to the show adds a realistic and transformative aspect to the unique performance.

Preceding the show’s opening on Thursday, November 1st, English professor Jennifer Thorn will facilitate a panel on women criminals, with faculty members Christopher Bruell (criminal justice), Kevin Doran (sociology), and Elaine Rizzo (criminal justice). Prompted by an infamous, illegally taken photograph of Ruth Snyder’s electrocution, the panel participants will discuss the influence of domesticity, capitalism, and mundane office life on violent crimes. During the panel, six tickets to the Abbey Players’ show will be raffled off.

“The show was a student choice,” explained Magnuson, “It was initially brought to light by a student who performed a cut of the show in the Beginning Acting course, and quickly caught attention from the [Abbey] Players.”

Tickets are $16 for adults, $14 for faculty, staff, and alumni, $7 for Saint Anselm students, and $14 for seniors, children, and New Hampshire college students. For additional information and to purchase tickets, please visit the Dana Center Web site.