The Adding Machine

Playwright Elmer Rice (1892–1967) wrote several great works, including the naturalistic Street Scene and the innovative On Trial, but his 1923 masterpiece is a surreal doozy: The Adding Machine. The bookkeeper hero of this nihilistic fairy tale, Mr. Zero, comes to work one day to discover his replacement—a machine. Rejection leads to murder, murder leads to trial, trial leads to execution—and then the play gets really weird. Rice’s stylistic innovations gave the emerging ’20s tenets of naturalistic theater such a profound knock that it’s been a little uneasy ever since. Even on the page (where it normally remains, due to elaborate production requirements), the script still packs a punch. It’s an audacious first production (through Dec. 13) for New Century Theatre Company, which boasts some of Seattle’s best and brightest stage talent—in this show, Paul Morgan Stetler, Amy Thone, Jen Taylor, and Darragh Kennan. At a time when major theaters are trimming their budgets, it’ll be fascinating to see what artists with passion, talent, and only $55,000—raised from family and friends—can do with Rice’s rarely produced trophy work. JOHN LONGENBAUGH [Also see Kevin Phinney's review here, and more from Longenbaugh here.] ACT Theatre, 700 Union St., 292-7676, www.newcenturytheatre $20-$25. 8 p.m. Thurs.-Sat., 2 p.m. Sun. Ends Dec. 13.

Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Starts: Nov. 13. Continues through Dec. 13, 2008

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