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Insurgo and CSN bring ‘Machinal’ to life

Machinal is based on the real story of Ruth Snyder, the first woman to be executed in the electric chair
Molly O'Donnell

¿Quién sabe? Who knows? These words of hope and possibility drive protagonist Helen Jones over the edge in the current run of Sophie Treadwell’s 1928 play Machinal, produced jointly by Insurgo and CSN. Based on the real story of Ruth Snyder, the first woman to be executed in the electric chair, the play presents a subjective look inside the life of a woman trapped by convention.

The Details

three stars
April 1, 2, 4, 8 & 9; 8 p.m.; $16.50-$21.50
Insurgo Bastard Theater, 900 E. Karen Ave.,

Sarah Spraker and Glenn Heath competently handle their parts as the Joneses, who could otherwise have easily become irksome characters, her by way of indecision and him with blithe and ignorant confidence. Director Stacia Zinkevich must have been cautious about these points, especially given that expressionist drama isn’t for everyone.

Seeing through someone else’s perceptions, especially when distorted, can feel alienating. Mitigating this are moments of unexpected humor the cast carries off like well-trained straight men. Other pluses: the mostly spot-on Jazz Age costuming and hair, the set (impossibly small yet ingeniously designed) and the well-timed blocking. Despite all that, it’s hard to make a play work when it feels dated and only tangentially relevant.


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