by DICK KEREKES & LEISLA SANSOM
The Douglas Anderson Theatre Department presented its last play of the 2012-2013 school year on its main stage theatre April 17-20 with a dynamic and exciting production of Elmer Rice’s “ADDING MACHINE” which debuted in 1923 and was revived as a Broadway musical in 2007 with a limited run. Douglas Anderson presented the original version with an inventive rendering by Director Michael Higgins.
This play was originally scheduled to be performed in DA’s Black Box Theatre, but was moved to the larger main stage with expanded sets and staging. If you missed this show, you missed the opportunity to see something not only unique, but also well done and thought-provoking.
The central character Mr. Zero (played brilliantly by DA Senior Pablo Milla), who in the dramatic opening dramatic scene is lying in a large bed that is perpendicular to the floor. In bed with him is his motor-mouthed wife, Mrs. Zero (Danielle Glenn) who delivers a well performed ten-minute monologue that consists of a laundry list of complaints about her henpecked husband.
Mr. Zero is a company accountant, and is actually a human adding machine. On the job, he spends the entire day adding figures read to him by his attractive assistant Daisy (Christy Mull). He has been at this same job for 25 years and when he receives a note from his Boss (Devin Reardon) he thinks he is going to be rewarded with a promotion and a raise. Instead, he finds he is being fired because the company is replacing him with a mechanical adding machine that can do his job. This suggests that the time of the play was the 1890’s, when the Burroughs Company patented the first commercially successful adding machine.
Mr. Zero kills his Boss in a fit of anger, goes to court, and is sentenced to death by hanging. .
Act Two opens in a graveyard where Zero is awaiting his fate; where will he spend eternity? Here he makes the acquaintance of Shrdlu (Jay Cobian) who has killed his mother with a carving knife and is also awaiting a determination of his fate.
In the next scene they are in a setting described in the program as “a pleasant place”, which I am sure all the audience surmised was a version of heaven known to the Greeks as Elysian Fields since it was a lovely grassy spot with flowers and music. Mr. Zero while in conversation with Shrdlu is suddenly joined by the lovely Daisy, who had committed suicide by gassing herself so she could be with Zero, a man she has secretly loved for years. We learn that Zero had had a romantic interest in Daisy for years and years, but even in this place with no wife to worry about (he is after all dead), Zero is so inept at the art of romance and expressing his feelings, that the dissatisfaction Daisy felt on earth from not being loved returns. As Zero departs she woefully laments, “I might as well be alive.”
Zero is sent back to earth and assigned to Lt. Charles (Michael Moody) and his assistant Joe (Jackie Jones) to be reused. The play ends as Mr. Zero is following a non-existent attractive female named Hope off the stage.
Director Higgins casting involved a number of students who were mostly silent using special phones to communicate. Higgins explores the modern technology of texting in a scene between Judy (Daisye Tutor) and Young Man (Billy Speed). Rounding out the cast were Zacharia Ignacio, Sarah DiGeorgio, Connor Driscoll, Veronica Vale, Chase Fowler, Sade Santos, Paxton Sanchez, Samantha Hannigan, Ronald Ferraco and Preston Pittman.
The members of the cast had agreed to a personal ‘technology moratorium” for a period of time which involved not using tablets, cell phones, computers, or laptops. Facebook postings were of course, also off-limits. The experience was designed to demonstrate the addictive power of our devices.
The Scenic Designer Samuel James Stark, created the futuristic fabulous sets, which included high office perches for Zero and Daisey, a very large and intimidating metal adding machine, and a graveyard scene that allowed glimpses of its other inhabitants.
The play is an interesting example of the Theatre of the Absurd, which isn’t often seen in Jacksonville. If you have some interest in “Adding Machine”, there was a 1968 film by Universal that may be available with some on-line searching. The only star in the move was the late Phyllis Diller as Mrs. Zero.
Thanks Douglas Anderson for another interesting evening of theatre. It was an excellent production with fine acting, and beguiling staging. It certainly brought home the dependence we have on today’s technology, as well as the dedication of DA theatre students to their craft.
by DICK KEREKES & LEISLA SANSOM