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Adding Machine, The - Full Length Play, Drama

Adding Machine, The

Elmer Rice

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Full Length Play, Drama

14m, 9f

ISBN: 9780573605086

A landmark of American Expressionism, Elmer Rice's 1923 play takes us through the murder, trial, execution, journey to the afterlife and back of Mr. Zero, an accountant who is replaced by a machine.

More Information Below:

Description | Characters | Rental Materials | Author | Now Playing | Reviews
$9.95
: Acting Edition
$17.95
: Large Print
$19.95
: Stage Manager

Minimum Fee: $75 per performance


Description

Full Length Play

Drama

Experimental

120 minutes (2 hours)

Settings Of Play - The offices of a large faceless company.
The house of Mr. & Mrs. Zero.
The Elysian Fields.

FEATURES / CONTAINS

Unit Set/Multiple Settings

TARGET AUDIENCE

Adult

PERFORMANCE GROUP

College Theatre / Student, Community Theatre, Professional Theatre, Shoestring Budget, Large Stage, Blackbox / Second Stage /Fringe Groups

RECOGNITION / AWARDS

Pulitzer

From the Pulitzer Prize winning playwright, Elmer Rice. 
Mr. Zero is an accountant at a large, faceless company. After 25 years at his job, he discovers that he will be replaced by an adding machine. In anger and pain, he snaps and kills his boss. Mr. Zero is then tried for murder, is found guilty and hanged, only to wake up in a heaven-like setting known as the "Elysian Fields." Mr. Zero then begins to operate an adding machine until the boss of the Elysian Fields, tells Zero that he is a waste of space and his soul is going to be sent back to the earth to be reused. The play ends with Zero following a very attractive girl named Hope off stage. During the whole series of this episodic journey, Mr. Zero is surprisingly oblivious to his deepest needs, wants and desires. 


REVIEWS

"Elmer Rice's 1923 expressionist satire seems abrasively modern in its attack on the dehumanising effect of industrial capitalism...Rice's play has left its impact on a wide variety of works, from Chaplin's Modern Times to Tony Kushner's Angels in America. But what is striking is the bilious inclusiveness of its attack on a machine-driven society that not only exploits its workers but robs them of their souls." - The Guardian

The Adding Machine opened on Broadway at The Garrick Theatre in 1923, and ran for 72 performances. 
Characters

CASTING

14m, 9f

CASTING ATTRIBUTES

Ensemble cast, Reduced casting (Doubling Possible), Expandable casting, Flexible casting

CASTING NOTES

Allows for some characters to be doubled. 

CHORUS SIZE

N/A (Not a musical)

ZERO
MRS. ZERO
DAISY DEVORE
THE BOSS
MR. ONE
MRS. ONE
MR. TWO
MRS. TWO
MR. THREE
MRS. THREE
MR. FOUR
MRS. FOUR
MR. FIVE
MRS. FIVE
MR. SIX
MRS. SIX
POLICEMAN
JUDY O'GRADY
YOUNG MAN
SHRDLU
A HEAD
LT. CHARLES
JOE

Rental Materials

MUSICAL STYLE

N/A (Not a musical)

VOCAL DEMANDS

N/A (Not a musical)

Author
Elmer Rice

Elmer Rice

Elmer Rice (born Sept. 28, 1892, New York City—died May 8, 1967, Southampton, Hampshire, Eng.) was an American playwright, director, and novelist noted for his innovative and polemical plays. Rice graduated from the New York Law School in 1912 but soon turned to writing plays. His first work, the melodramatic On Trial (1914), was the first play to employ on stage the motion-picture technique of ... view full profile

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Reviews
Jesse Marchese 4/18/2013 4:32 PM
Elmer Rice’s 1923 landmark play, The Adding Machine has remained theatrically potent, strikingly relevant and terrifyingly honest in its 90 years of existence.  Rice’s successful entry into the canon of American Expressionism delivers keen insight into the systemization of mankind.  The play tells the story of Mr. Zero, a lifeless book keeper who has become regimented by the slog of twenty-five years at the same job.  When Mr. Zero discovers that he is being fired and replaced by an adding machine he impulsively kills his boss.  The play follows Mr. Zero’s trial, execution and afterlife, resulting in his sentence to return to earth and live through it all over again.

What makes this play a singular achievement is its indelible portrayal of man’s repressed desires.  Both Mr. Zero and his co-worker, Daisy Devore, have had a long-standing attraction to one another, but rarely is a kind word spoken between the two.  These feelings ultimately lead to bitterness between the pair due to Zero’s dedication to his nagging, spiteful wife.  The play’s opening scene, a six-page monologue in which Mrs. Zero divulges her every disappointment in her husband, remains incredibly effective in its depiction of oppression—throughout it, Mr. Zero remains seemingly oblivious to his own feelings.

Another moment which remains a jaw-dropper is a monologue delivered in the final scene of the play.  In it, the character of Lieutenant Charles cynically portrays to Zero what the early stages of life will have in store for him.  The picture he paints is not a pretty one—but it strikes an honest chord.  It isn’t so scary that Mr. Zero is being replaced by a machine, but that Mr. Zero shuffles through life with about as much feeling, soul and desire as a machine.  Now that’s terrifying.

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