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The New School of Northern Virginia The Adding Machine

By • Feb 26th, 2012 • Category: Cappies

Mr. Zero is exactly what his name suggests; a nobody. He has worked the same monotonous accounting job, adding numbers with the same bitter co-worker, while ignoring his trial of a wife for twenty-five torturous years. But Mr. Zero’s monochromatic days are numbered. When he is replaced at work by a simple adding machine, leaving him with nothing. What are his choices? The New School of Northern Virginia threw themselves into answering this question in their rendition of The Adding Machine.

The Adding Machine was written by Elmer Rice in 1923. It was also adapted into a 1969 feature film and a 2007 musical. In this play, Mr. Zero is an accountant at a successful, but boring company. After twenty-five years working the same job, he is fired. In his anger and pain, he snaps and kills his boss, beginning a landslide of trouble that will extend even beyond his lifetime.

An interesting variation in this production was the choice to have more than one Mr. Zero. However, even though each actor’s interpretation was unique, the transitions between them from scene to scene were seamless. Mr. Zero was also clearly identifiable by his signature grey sweater vest, eliminating any confusion. Among the various Mr. Zero’s, Brian Kraemer particularly stood out. The inner conflict and stage presence he brought to the character was captivating during the courtroom scene. Endowing the character with a genuine depth, he single-handedly facilitated the most enthralling moments of the show. Maren Berg was also admirable, pouring energy into Mr. Zero and keeping the show moving at a steady pace.

The ensemble added life to the grey world of The Adding Machine through their animated chatting and fluid scene transitions, despite occasional foibles with synchronized movements. Shannon Mendonca was engrossing as Mr. Zero’s disgruntled co-worker, Daisy. Her deadpan responses and hatred of her job, added slight humor to the bleak play. Another standout from the cast was Ross Rubin as Lieutenant Charles. For a production that had a few stumbles along its way, his enthusiasm pushed it along to its poignant conclusion.

The play was performed in the intimate setting of a black box, effectively grabbing the audience’s attention from the moment they entered the performance area. The set was simplistic yet innovative, with an array of grey chairs transforming the small space into a bed, an office, and even a graveyard. An off-balance and claustrophobic feel was achieved through the artful hanging of receipt paper from the ceiling and the splattered blue and grey treatment of the floor. Lights also added to the overall grim mood and managed flawless transitions, creating the different desired effects for each scene.

The life and afterlife of Mr. Zero are vignettes that provide a poignant look at some timeless issues of life. Although there seemed to be moments where actors had some trouble communicating the overall message, their love of the show and of their fellow performers was obvious and made The New School of Northern Virginia’s The Adding Machine an enjoyable and thought-provoking experience.

by Emma Paquette of McLean High School

Photo Gallery

Michael Ginsberg as Mr. Zero Brian Kraemer as Mr. Zero and Ross Rubin as Lt. Charles
Michael Ginsberg as Mr. Zero
Brian Kraemer as Mr. Zero and Ross Rubin as Lt. Charles
Brian Kraemer, Maren Berg, Michael Ginsberg, Sam Stone, Jon Halverson Mr. Zero, Brian Kraemer, facing the jury (full ensemble)
Brian Kraemer, Maren Berg, Michael Ginsberg, Sam Stone, Jon Halverson
Mr. Zero, Brian Kraemer, facing the jury (full ensemble)

Photos by John Potter

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is a program which was founded in 1999, for the purpose of celebrating high school theater arts and providing a learning opportunity for theater and journalism students. You can learn more at cappies.com.

One Response »

  1. The Cappies is the best thing that ever happenend to High School Theatre Arts!!!!