Machinal Rebecca Hall and Morgan Spector | Sara Krulwich/The New York Times

Machinal is a play set inside a machine, and its mechanical unfolding delivers on the promise of its title. Its heroine, Helen, begins as an unhappy and unpunctual office girl, hating her position yet fearful of losing it. She resolves that conflict by marrying her boss, whom she loathes, hoping to find in a mercenary marriage escape from the drudgery of her job and the demands of her abrasive mother. A child is born, and Helen is so repelled by her daughter that she refuses even to hold her in the hospital nursery. She is of course deeply unsatisfied in her marriage and attempts to resolve this conflict, first with adultery, and...


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