Melancholic ‘Machinal’ keeps you on your toes

Sophie Treadwell’s dark and sad tale of a young woman revived in George Brown College theatre production

Set in the 1920s, Machinal may leave you feeling heavy-hearted for the voiceless women dominated by the men in their lives.

The play centres on male privilege and the lack of female autonomy on issues like abortion and marriage.

Directed by Brenda Bazinet, this drama was adapted from Sophie Treadwell’s original 1928 play. The play, particularly the ending, is not for the fainthearted. Even the casts’ wardrobe, fashioned in 1920s style and beige and dark brown colours, help set the dark, somber tone of the play.

Although Machinal remains melancholic throughout, the talent of the cast together with the intense plot kept the audience on their toes.

The stage is laid with a checker-board tile flooring under a towering obsidian-like horizontal slated fence. The slats were like a tease, letting slips of light through, but never completely.

Like the light slipping through the slats, the performance of Terri Pimblett who plays A Young Woman, brightens a dark tale in Machinal.

Terri Pimblett (left) and Bonnie Ings (right) in Machinal

Terri Pimblett (left) and Bonnie Ings (right) in Machinal. Photo by Andrew Oxenham.

The play began with a marching band of employees checking in to work in patriarchal 1920s America. The office is like a stock market full of passive-aggressive, buzzing employees. Their typewriting muffling gossip.

As Pimblett’s character walks in late and struggles to communicate her tardiness to her co-workers. Pimblett’s stellar acting is reminiscent of Vivien Leigh playing Blanche Dubois in A Streetcar Named Desire, crying out to the audience with monologues of cynicism and secrets.

Pimblett’s performance conveys her character’s feelings of being stuck and frustration as well as her pleas for freedom and rest seem to fall on deaf ears when it matters most. And while the play is set almost 100 years ago, it’s sadly easy to connect the current epidemic of sexual harassment against women. Too often then, and now, women suffer in silence.

Machinal runs until Nov. 18. Tickets are $10 for students and $25 for adults and they are available at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts.

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Melancholic ‘Machinal’ keeps you on your toes