One Year Lease
By SOPHIE TREADWELL
Theater for the New City
155 First Avenue, NYC
(212) 352-3101 or www.theatermania.com
November 13 – December 6, 2003
Directed by IANTHE DEMOS
Asst. Director/Stage Manager KAREN LARKIN
Set Design JAMES HUNTING
Lighting Design MIKE RIGGS
Costume Design KAY LEE
Dramaturg JESSICA APPLEBAUM
Public Relations SARAH PARVIS
(in order of appearance)
Adding Clerk/Older Man at Bar/Reporter – Jarret Berenstein
Filing Clerk/Waiter/Bailiff/Barber – Jordan Cerruti
Telephone Girl/Nurse – Kate DiMarco
Stenographer/Mother/Woman at Bar – Marie-Pierre Beauséjour
George H. Jones/Judge – Bill Coelius
Young Woman – Ariane Barbanell
Doctor/Man at Bar/Barber – Marco Formosa
Lover/Priest – Durand Ford
2nd Man at Bar/Reporter – Sam George
Younger Man at Bar/Reporter – Brian M. Thomas
Lawyer for the Defense/Jailer – Brian Armstrong
Lawyer for the Prosecution – Jack McGowan
In1927 Ruth Snyder and Judd Gray went on trial for the murder of Ruth’s husband, Albert. Sophie Treadwell was one of the journalists who covered the trial, and she later wrote a theatrical adaptation loosely based on the actual events. That play was MACHINAL (1928).
While the Snyder-Gray trial also serves as the inspiration for the classic films "The Postman Always Rings Twice" and "Double Indemnity," Treadwell’s piece is perhaps the most introspective and cerebral of the three. In the real case, Ruth’s lover was an accomplice to the crime. Not so in MACHINAL, a work that has reached into the core of the matter, exploring the thought process of a killer rather than focusing on the ramifications of crime and punishment. The resulting drama, a highly stylized look into the mind of the young murderess, Helen (Ariane Barbanell), is a vital work that puts emphasis on the encompassing monotony of daily existence, and the effect that being, essentially, trapped within the machinery of daily life has upon the psyche of one troubled woman.
In the hands of One Year Lease, the dimensions of MACHINAL have been realized in ways I would have never envisioned. With the actors literally off the ground, and performing the majority of the play whilst climbing on, sitting on, or dangling from the upper rungs of the four ladders that serve as the major set pieces, the players themselves have taken on the character of living props, as if they were part and parcel of the spaces that surround them. The overall effect of this strategy made the story all the more mundane on the ladders, and all the more significant in the two major scenes, Helen’s affair and Helen’s execution, that are played on the ground. In contrast, everything else that happens seems like mindless detail, filler and repetition. Everything else feels like it is happening as Helen experiences it.
While not the most affecting version of MACHINAL I have ever attended, this was certainly the most uniquely inspired. With that, One Year Lease continues to present classics with a modern eye and the sort of unexpected execution that can make even the old and oft-seen seem like new again.
- Kessa De Santis -