The stylized drama by playwright Sophie Treadwell that opened
on Thursday at the American Airlines Theater was inspired by the
true story of Ruth Snyder, a New York woman who was executed in
the electric chair for the murder of her husband in January 1928
at the age of 33.
"'Machinal' is a vivid, bracing portrait of a woman pushed to
the edge, but it doesn't involve any weepy psychologizing," said
the New York Post.
"What makes the show so fascinating is the contrast between its
cerebral approach and Hall's compassionate performance."
With its modernist prose style and dark theme it is not an easy
play, but the Post said its director Lyndsey Turner and Hall, in
her Broadway debut, "have made it a must see."
"'Machinal' is one of those lost ahead-of-its-time plays that
gets found by successive generations," said the Independent
newspaper of London, adding it has been greatly staged in New
The Hollywood Reporter described the production as a "bristling
revival" with an enduring intensity and committed actors.
"But it's Hall who rivets attention, holding nothing back in her
tortured portrayal of this everywoman's dehumanizing downward
spiral as she's failed by her own survival skills and by
everyone around her," it added.
REVOLVING, SCENE-STEALING SET
Hall, the 31-year-old star of films such as Woody Allen's 2008
romance "Vicky, Cristina, Barcelona" and 2013's Disney-Marvel
blockbuster superhero series "Iron Man 3," plays a woman trapped
in a loveless marriage in a mechanized, male-dominated world.
[to top of second column]
Morgan Spector, of the HBO television series "Boardwalk Empire,"
is her lover, a role first played by a young Clark Gable when
the play premiered on Broadway in September 1928.
British actor Michael Cumpsty, 53, who appeared in a
Broadway revival of "The Winslow Boy," last year is the husband who
loves but doesn't understand her.
The New York Times praised Hall's performance but
said she had an overbearing co-star in stage designer Es Devlin's
box set. The Times said Hall holds her own against the "scene
stealing" set which keeps the play moving seamlessly as characters
walk from one situation to the next.
"Ms. Devlin's revolving set turns as inexorably as the earth to
reveal our heroine amid a series of inhospitable vistas, from the
office to the bedroom," it said.
"Every design detail — like the immense, sickly colored curtains
that cover windows — seems to confirm and mock her feelings of
confinement," it added.
The Times found the ensemble acting diffuse, which made the lead
character seem less a victim of the society in which she lived than
of her own mental illness.
"Still, it's a thrill to have as illuminating a guide as Ms. Hall to
take us through the twisting corridors of derangement," it said.
(Editing by Eric Kelsey and Andrew Hay)
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