Sunday, November 30, 2008

Adding Machine a great debut by New Century Theatre Company

There's a new player on the Seattle theater scene, and if its inaugural production is any indication the New Century Theatre Company is going to be around for a while. NCTC is staging Elmer Rice's 1923 play The Adding Machine, directed by John Langs, in ACT's Falls Theater through Dec. 13.

The Adding Machine is an ambitious choice for the first production, given that the cast consists of 15 actors -- a big load to carry for a company just starting out. NCTC pulls it off; The Adding Machine is a visually stark and stunning, thought-provoking piece on work, life, death, and the afterlife.

Co-artistic director Paul Morgan Stetler plays central character Mr. Zero, arithmetic whiz in a big store's beancounting department. Zero gets the pink slip after 25 years "without missing a day" -- the "title device" has made his services unnecessary. Zero offs the boss and makes no effort to cover up the crime. The jury convicts him despite his perfectly logical contention that the boss had it coming.

Stetler's Mr. Zero is tormented by a torrent of figures, never far from the top of his mind. He's oblivious to the deep dissatisfaction of his wife (marvelously played by Amy Thone) and to the fact that ditsy co-worker Daisy (Jennifer Lee Taylor) really wants him. Daisy offs herself after Zero's execution, but somehow they don't manage to hook up when they meet at the Elysian Fields, either.

The funniest performance of the show is turned in by Darragh Keenan as Shrdlu, a nervous, chain-smoking character who has killed his mother. He makes a better case for justifiable homicide than Zero did! The two first meet sitting in the graveyard (it could be that Thornton Wilder ripped off the idea from Rice for the cemetery scene in Our Town) as Shrdlu explains that he smokes to ward off mosquitoes.

In the end, the suffering souls go back to life to do it all again. We're just not sure they weren't better off when they were monkeys.

NCTC aims to be a resident theater company and currently has eleven members, including Hans Altweis, who joins Stetler as co-artistic director, Thone, Taylor, and Kennan. They're aiming for somewhere in between the big guys and the fringe theaters in Seattle. Special props to one of the big guys, ACT, for its generous support.

NCTC's mission statement says the company will let the story be king. They are committed to plays that are fearless and will not do your thinking for you, and promise "timely works of the 20th Century, provocative 'second looks' of under-produced contemporary masterpieces, and annual world premieres from some of our country's most talented up-and-coming writers."

They've scored with The Adding Machine. Weisenheimer can't wait for their next show.

1 comment:

Becky said...

I just had to tell you that your last comment on my blog made me laugh out loud. Thanks! :)