Machinal was first produced in 1928. It premiered on Broadway with Clark Gable cast as the lover, Dick Roe. It was a critical success and ran for 91 performances. In 1931, the drama premiered in London to some mixed reviews, mostly because of the sexual and violent nature of the play. However, Machinal’s greatest success came in Russia at Moscow’s Kamerny Theatre, after which the play toured throughout the Russian provinces. Later, in 1954, the play was even produced for television.
The play’s title means “automatic” or “mechanical” in French. Sophie Treadwell wrote the play based loosely on the murder trial of Ruth Snyder and her lover, Judd Gray, who together murdered Snyder’s husband. Convicted of murdering her husband, Snyder later received the electric chair. Out of this event came the powerful, demanding drama, Machinal.
A woman’s role during this era in history is confined and regimented to wife, mother, housekeeper, and sexual partner. Love is considered unnecessary, and thus many women are trapped in their dependant status, living a hellish life in a loveless marriage. The relationship between Helen Jones and her husband, George H. Jones, is no different. However, when a man intercedes and Helen is given a momentary glimpse of passion, her life is forever changed. She sees how society confines her, how her husband unconsciously dominates her every decision, and she feels that there is no escape....
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