The Adding Machine
- Elmer Rice's seven-scene expressionist drama, originally billed as a tragedy, centers upon Mr. Zero, a bookkeeper in a heartless modern corporation. Zero escapes the drudgery of his job and the nagging of his harridan wife through a rich imaginary world depicted in striking surreal images. When Zero is rendered superfluous by a new mechanical wonder—the adding machine—and is fired from his drone-like job totaling figures in a ledger, he murders his boss. His comparatively harmless fantasies devolve into bizarre, violent nightmares. A petty nonentity, Zero is not the most engaging or sympathetic hero, but Rice focuses on the potentially dehumanizing aspects of technology and the corporate world, as well as on the bourgeois pieties and bigotries of lower-middle-class American life. Produced by the Theatre Guild, The Adding Machine premiered at New York's Garrick Theatre on 19 March 1923 under the direction of Philip Moeller. It met with generally positive response for the playwright, cast (Dudley Digges and Helen Westley as Mr. and Mrs. Zero, with Edward G. Robinson and Margaret Wycherly in smaller roles), and the scene designer Lee Simonson, who took inspiration from German expressionist theatre and motion pictures.
The Historical Dictionary of the American Theater. James Fisher.
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