BU Players delve into the darkness of ‘Machinal’

Holly Janze, Contributing Writer

“Aren’t you eating a potato?” said the mother (Somer Walsh) in the play “Machinal” by Sophie Treadwell, when her daughter, Helen (Carly Carman), tries to talk with her about marrying a man she does not love. In this scene, potatoes seem to be more important than what her daughter is going through, illustrating a continuing theme of Helen not putting herself first.

The re-staged play, directed by Andrew Blasenak, ran from Feb. 21 through Feb. 25 at the Alvina Krause Theatre in downtown Bloomsburg. The play follows the life of a young woman, Helen, who portrays how a woman’s life may be severely altered by trying to fit her assumed society-given role.
The play begins in an office, where a receptionist (Kendall Baird), adding clerk (Jack Burns) and a stenographer (Toni Carosella) are all in a busy, fast-paced work environment. My favorite part of this scene must be Kendall Baird’s accumulation of sexual references and inappropriate noises, adding to the idea of feminine sexuality being oppressed within society.

Afterwards, Helen performs her first soliloquy, admitting her fear of marrying Mr. Jones (Jonathan Schultz), but conscious that it is expected of her. Demonstrating a practically nonexistent life outside of work, apart from taking care of her mother, Helen goes on to marry her boss, for whom she feels nothing.

Later in the play, Helen finally experiences her first sense of fulfillment after meeting a mysterious young man (Chris Thorne). This strange and scandalous sexual affair prompts Helen to reevaluate how dissatisfied she is with how her life has played out thus far.

When Helen comes home that night to her husband she has strong anxiety, flinches at his every touch and word before reciting a soliloquy which intensifies as she elaborates on her thoughts, before the stage goes black. It all goes downhill for Helen from there.

An admirable aspect of this play is how Helen’s soliloquies demonstrate the inner turmoil and tension she feels about what she should do as a woman. It appears she cannot figure out her role in life or what she should be. Even when Helen talks with her mother about her dilemma, the mother calls her “crazy” for not wanting to marry a rich man.

Additionally, the detailed and theatrical effects of the play were pretty elaborate, using smoke and lighting effects to demonstrate the intensity of various situations, like when Helen’s friend runs out with a man. Helen’s lover immediately judges the friend by questioning why Helen is with a “girl like that,” relating to another issue with women in society.

Each character was believable and showed their emotions adequately, whether it was how Helen’s lover began to distance himself after their affair, saying who knows what will happen in the future, and how Helen uses her newfound sense of freedom as a weapon to deal with her husband.
The play gave a complex depiction of the inner confusion a woman may experience if she forces herself to do what others believe she should do.
For future reference, The Alvina Krause Theatre typically shows plays Wednesdays through Saturdays at 7:30 pm and Sundays at 3:00 pm at 226 Center St., Bloomsburg, PA. The plays are produced with great thought and effort, acted out by individuals with an undying love for theatre.

If all of this doesn’t convince you to attend a play, you might want to remember the line from Helen’s mother: “Aren’t you eating a potato? … Well, you should.” Then, think about attending one of these endlessly enjoyable plays.

 

“Machinal” wowed BloomU students last week at the Alvina Krause Theatre.