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3.85  ·  Rating Details  ·  791 Ratings  ·  38 Reviews
Sophie Treadwell was a campaigning journalist in America between the wars. Among her assignments was the sensational murder involving Ruth Snyder, who with her lover, Judd Gray, had murdered her husband and gone to the electric chair. Out of this came MACHINAL, a powerful expressionist drama about the dependent status of women and the living hell of a loveless marriage. Su ...more
Paperback, 96 pages
Published April 1st 1995 by Nick Hern Books (first published 1928)
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Hamlet by William ShakespeareThe Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar WildeWaiting for Godot by Samuel BeckettRosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead by Tom StoppardThe Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams
Theatrical Greatness
107th out of 137 books — 25 voters
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Plays Written by Women
24th out of 64 books — 6 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,324)
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Oct 27, 2014 Maxwell rated it liked it
Shelves: i-own-it, drama, 2013
I would love to see this acted out.
Treadwell focuses on the mechanical, repetitive, and inhuman qualities that humans often evoke. It is daunting.
Dec 23, 2015 Drew rated it really liked it
Shelves: drama
I saw an off-off-Broadway production of "Machinal," in which the lead character, a woman who can't find her place in this world, was played by a different actress in every scene. That worked quite nicely as the middle-class murderess at center is something of an Everywoman. Why not have many women play her? I also like how it's not just society but also the unending sounds of the city that oppress the main woman and how the set (suggested by Treadwell) is fairly unchanging except for what's reve ...more
Apr 21, 2016 Katie rated it it was ok
Yes, I appreciated it. But no, it didn't strike me as neutral; I actually didn't like it. Hence the rating. I feel like I overrate things/don't distinguish enough, seeing as my average is probably above 3. Anyway, to the play: almost Hemingway-esque, is that it?

I found the main character without my sympathies – her reasoning seemed off. Yes, her life was hard, but there are better ways to deal with them. Yes, things are exaggerated or changed to make a point – but did the others have so many pr
Greg Kerestan
Feb 01, 2016 Greg Kerestan rated it liked it
I'm a fan of the Expressionist movement in theatre and film, but sometimes it works better than other times. Sophie Treadwell's "Machinal" may have been revolutionary when it premiered, but reading it today, it feels more like a blueprint for later works, like "The Adding Machine" and "Chicago" than a full-fledged masterwork itself. Despite this, Treadwell writes quite well, and it's clear why this show was so influential in its heyday. Anyone looking into the forgotten female playwrights of the ...more
Dec 26, 2015 Melchior rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 9th-grade
This book was absolutely fabulous. I had the good fortune of playing Telephone Girl in a production of Machinal, and I got so into the plot with our fantastic Young Woman and cast. It is truly a feminist masterpiece of the time period, and is gorgeous from head to toe, sparkling with poignant remarks and dizzying with terrifying experiences. When I first got the script, I wasn't well acquainted with it, but after memorizing the lines, I have become really good friends with the text, and I wouldn ...more
Apr 02, 2016 SharieCrimson rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 10, 2016 Kaila rated it it was amazing
This play is a lovely work of modern theatre with a powerful theme that is still relevant today. Sophie Treadwell writes of a young woman in a world that has no dimension or life. All the characters except the young woman are caricatures with no depth. This play is absolutely amazing. I played the Adding Clerk in my school's production of this play. It was a blast and I learned a lot.
Aug 28, 2015 Maria rated it really liked it
Working on expanding my knowledge of female playwrights and had this recommended by a friend.

I really love the writing elements that seem experimental: Laying out at the beginning "The Plot", "The Plan", "The Hope"; creating symphonies of voices and mechanical sounds; the stream of consciousness monologue that ends the "Maternal" episode...

In some ways this play seems very much of its time, which can be charming or off-putting by turns. But there are parts that are also daring even by today's
Jul 04, 2010 Stuart rated it it was amazing
Sparse, simple, powerful, this play beautifully captures a woman's descent into slow madness as the result of everyday subjigation and powerlessness. There are moments when you can almost hear the nervous ticking inside Helen's head. The characters, most only appearing for a scene or two, are elegantly drawn and easy to identify- we all know or have been these people. The scene between Helen and her lover, Richard, is filled with the beautiful, simple poetry that everyone hears in their head wit ...more
May 15, 2016 Lauren rated it really liked it
It was hard to follow the dialogue at times because of the lack of specific character names, so I read along while I watched a performance of it and it made it a lot easier. I liked it overall though. I wish it didn't skip so much at the end though.
Cecily Erker
Feb 17, 2010 Cecily Erker rated it really liked it
I read this because SLU is putting it on as their next production, and I wanted to audition for it. This is probably a play that has to be seen to be fully appreciated, because of the Expressionist sound effects, but I liked the script, as simple as it was. It's probably hard for people to understand why the character remained so passive until the last second, but I can identify with her feelings of helplessness and that everyone is in control of your life but you. She always had choices and mul ...more
Mar 17, 2015 Sharon rated it liked it
Shelves: vintage, classics, theatre
Click, clack. On, off. Oppression, freedom? If this play had a soundtrack it could easily be the Cell Block Tango... was this seemingly modern work an inspiration for Chicago?
Apr 15, 2015 Colleen rated it it was amazing
Shelves: plays, reviewed
What an incredible play! Although written in 1928, this play is still relevant today. A young woman seeks independence in a male-dominated society. She is so repressed by the mechanized lives of the people that make up the world of this expressionist play that she is driven to extreme action. The world Helen lives in is more restrictive, certainly, than that faced by women today, but the echos of that world are still haunting us and it is important to remember where we came from and how far we h ...more
Apr 18, 2016 Diana rated it really liked it
The overload of stage directions and author's notes made it so difficult to pick up but once the fast-paced language clicked, it was hard to not finish it. Dark themes are hidden underneath the clipped dialogue and monologues.
T.tara Turk-Haynes
Jan 04, 2008 T.tara Turk-Haynes rated it it was amazing
I've seen it done best at Sarah Lawrence (directed by Kevin Confoy) and it's absolutely breathtaking if done right. Unfortunately it gets overshadowed by Chicago and they are two completely different kinds of stories about women and their lack of rights and sometimes even direction. It's hard to imagine a time when you couldn't even fathom your own independence so you have to make steps where nobody's ever tread before. It helps that Sophie was a journalist at the time and so can give us a sneak ...more
May 06, 2014 Jason rated it it was amazing
Such an intense piece! Sad that it was written in 1928 and nothing much has changed and this piece is still relevant and speaks to the issues that women still face today. Brilliantly written!
Julie Suzanne
Dec 15, 2008 Julie Suzanne rated it really liked it
The best part of this book is the introduction, in which I learned about Treadwell and expressionism. The play is excellent. I am officially off the wagon of depressing literature about women...I'm discontinuing my nightly routine of reading Shirley Jackson short stories (The Renegade mixed with Machinal thoroughly depressed me) and I'm going to read something more upbeat. :)

I recommend Bjork's film "Dancer in the Dark" which is also thoroughly depressing and disturbing in the same way.

P.S. Putt
Dave Cotton
Jan 19, 2014 Dave Cotton rated it really liked it
Shelves: theater
An excellent example of theatrical expressionism. I can't wait to share this one with my students. I am so grateful that Roundabout Theater has revived it and brought it to my attention.
Tristan Yi
Nov 03, 2014 Tristan Yi rated it really liked it
Jun 11, 2009 Coco rated it liked it
This is actually a play so, well I read the script. I found it in my house! It is about a journalist in America. She is assigned to write about a woman who killed her husband with her boyfriend and who was sentenced to murder. It is a very angry book! But it was quite a successful play. I really liked it. I do not often enjoy this type of book but i liked it because it was written as a play, I suppose.
Monica Martin
Mar 23, 2015 Monica Martin rated it it was amazing
I think this has become my all time favourite play. There is so much to say and talk about. Her anxieties, her inability to connect, her freedoms, her purity.
The use of language, and the chosen words are so poetic and meaningful, that from the first time Young Woman talked I was engrossed.
I will be thanking my English Lectures for putting this book on the curriculum!
Jen Klug
Jan 08, 2014 Jen Klug rated it really liked it
I guess I expected this to feel more dated than it did, maybe even campy. But it was very moving. Haunting, even. I'd love to see it performed.
Ana Rusness-petersen
Really great play...the entire first half, I was worked up, having trouble breathing just because of the writing style - which was an intentional. Very enlightening, especially if you've seen or read "Not Enough Air" from Timeline Theatre. Definitely feminist overtones/undertones. Be sure to read author's bio for a greater depth of appreciation.
Mar 24, 2007 brandy rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone
Shelves: theater
after reading this several times and falling in love with treadwell's expressionistic ideas, language, and use of sounds, I decided to direct this play as a senior project in college. though i probably did it no credit, i wouldn't have chosen anything else. very profound, very difficult material. my copy has become a very fragile corpse.
The Steele
Sep 28, 2008 The Steele rated it liked it
A little bit wild, and mechanical (as it is supposed to be). Treadwell shows how modern life consumes people and turns them into a series of functions. I would like to see it on stage, and was worth the hour it took to read, but not my favorite.
Donovan Foote
I think this play would be excellent. It's not really a great read though. I mean, it's a good story but there's so much going on in the way of stage direction and different characters that it gets hard to follow. So, go see the play.
Sep 10, 2007 Megan rated it it was ok
Shelves: plays
It is a good play for a central female character. I found the writing style to be very interesting. I could sense what the playwright was trying to do but it also made me disconnect from the central character a bit. It was ok.
Mar 09, 2007 Kate rated it really liked it
Shelves: theatre
i love expressionist theatre. this one is based on the story of the first woman exectued in new york...powerful stuff, really. i did this play in college. meeeeemories....light the corners of my mind...
Nick Pappas
Mar 08, 2008 Nick Pappas rated it liked it
Recommends it for: theatre lovers
Shelves: plays
One of the major, and forgotten female playwrights. She was the forerunner of Mamet, Beckett, and Pinter. And a true contemporary of Brechet. Good play, nice to read, better to see performed.
Jun 27, 2012 Han rated it liked it
Fantastic concept and innovative for its time, but this play's intended effect clearly depends on actual stage productions and actors.
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