Adding Machine: A Musical at Studio Theatre

First let me go ahead and say that this show is not going to be everyone's cup of tea. If you are strictly a Sondheim or Rodgers and Hammerstein or Lerner and Lowe fan, you most likely won't want to see this one. However, if you're a fan of more modern, LaChiusa-esque musicals, like me, I have a feeling you'll enjoy Studio's most recent offering.

Now that that's out of the way, let's talk about the show. It's simultaneously dark and hilarious, uplifting and terrifying. Set in Studio's small Stage 4 blackbox theatre, the audience is on three sides of the stage, and you never miss a thing. It starts out with Mr. and Mrs. Zero (David Benoit and Joanne Schmoll, respectively) in bed together. Schmoll begins the play with a song in which she is trying to interest her husband in the latest gossip, but when he remains silent and finally gets up to go to work, she rails at him. As he gets dressed she sings to him about what a fool she was to get married to him. The next scene is where Mr. Zero works. He adds up numbers all day long. Today is his 25th anniversary, and he's convinced the boss (Dan Via) will give him a promotion. Unfortunately, something a little different happens. When Mr. Zero returns home, his wife berates him about not being on time, as they have company coming over. Their friends arrive; Mr. and Mrs. One (Joe Peck and Katie Nigsch) and Mr. and Mrs. Two (Thomas Adrian Simpson and Channez McQuay) immediately start bickering with each other. Then there's a knock at the door. It's the police, there to take Mr. Zero to prison.

When the lights again come up, we are in a prison where Mr. Zero is eating his last meal. His wife arrives to say goodbye, but they end up fighting and she storms out. Fellow prisoner Shrdlu (Stephen Gregory Smith) begins questioning Mr. Zero and tells his own story of how he came to be there. Eventually it is time, and we are transported to the Elysian Fields. Here Mr. Zero encounters Daisy (Kristen Jepperson), a girl across the street whom he admired through the windows. She also happened to be his assistant at work. The end of the show makes you think about what you believe about the afterlife and what you believe punishment really is.

This quick, 90-minute show has a lot to make you laugh and a lot to make you think. It reminds me a little of Martin McDonaugh's plays, which are hilarious but in an incredibly sickening kind of way. When you realize what it is you're laughing at, you take a step back and wonder at yourself. This is definitely one of those kinds of shows. Overall, with only minor exceptions, the acting is clean and the singing sounds lovely. The sound quality isn't great, and I'm not sure why microphones are necessary in a space this small. Smith is a bright spot in the production with his portrayal of a zealous, God-fearing murderer. He has a beautiful voice and just generally shines onstage. For a quick, thought-provoking evening at the theatre, you could do much worse than Adding Machine: A Musical.

Adding Machine: A Musical
by Joshua Schmidt and Jason Loewith
Studio Theatre
1501 14th St, NW
October 14 - November 8


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