The Adding Machine

by  Elmer Rice

Full Length Play, Drama  /  14m, 9f

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

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The Adding Machine

by  Elmer Rice

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  • Cast Size

    Cast Size

    14m, 9f
  • Duration

    Duration

    120 minutes (2 hours)
  • SubGenre

    Subgenre

    Experimental
  • Accolades

    Accolades

    Pulitzer
  • Audience

    Target Audience

    • Adult

Additional Info

Mr. Zero is an accountant at a large, faceless company. After twenty-five 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, 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 Earth to be reused. The play ends with Zero following a very attractive girl named Hope offstage. During the whole series of this episodic journey, Mr. Zero is surprisingly oblivious to his deepest needs, wants, and desires. 
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Accolades

  • From the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, Elmer Rice. 

Reviews

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

Keywords

Aging, Business, Death

Considerations

Performing Groups

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

License details

  • Minimum Fee: $75 per performance

Production

Details

  • Duration: 120 minutes (2 hours)
  • Setting: The offices of a large faceless company.
    The house of Mr. & Mrs. Zero.
    The Elysian Fields.

Music

  • Musical Style: N/A (Not a musical)
  • Vocal Demands: N/A (Not a musical)
  • Chorus Size: N/A (Not a musical)

Casting

14m, 9f

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

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Cast Attributes

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

Casting Notes

Allows for some characters to be doubled. 

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Authors

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 ...

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The Adding Machine opened on Broadway at The Garrick Theatre in 1923, and ran for seventy-two performances. 

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