Machinal | Greenhouse Theater Center | Theater & Performance | Chicago Reader
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Evan Hanover

When: Thursdays-Sundays. Continues through Sept. 24 2017
Price: $41, $20 students
Think of Helen Jones as Woyzeck's great-great-great-granddaughter. Born around 1836, a creation of German genius Georg Büchner, Woyzeck is the prototype of the alienated modern: a soldier so routinely jacked around by the powers (and lovers) that be that he turns murderous. With Machinal (1928), playwright Sophie Treadwell regendered the scenario and updated it to jazz-age America. Treadwell's anomic twentysomething Helen supports herself and her implacable nag of a mother by working as a corporate stenographer. When her idiot boss gets romantic with her, she can either marry him or be fired, so she settles for a life of conjugal emptiness—until she meets a mysterious stranger. Featuring crisp movement by Elizabeth Margolius, Jacob Harvey's Greenhouse Theater Center production respects Treadwell's expressionist aesthetic without getting homage-y about it. The result is at once clinically distanced and painfully immediate as it dissects Helen's untenable life. Like Woyzeck himself, Heather Chrisler's Helen hovers between antihero and schlemiel. Her scene with Cody Proctor's stranger is quietly agonizing. —Tony Adler

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