Playwright Elmer Rice (18921967) wrote several great works, including the naturalistic Street Scene and the innovative On Trial, but his 1923 masterpiece is a surreal doozy: The Adding Machine. The bookkeeper hero of this nihilistic fairy tale, Mr. Zero, comes to work one day to discover his replacementa machine. Rejection leads to murder, murder leads to trial, trial leads to executionand then the play gets really weird. Rices stylistic innovations gave the emerging 20s tenets of naturalistic theater such a profound knock that its been a little uneasy ever since. Even on the page (where it normally remains, due to elaborate production requirements), the script still packs a punch. Its an audacious first production (through Dec. 13) for New Century Theatre Company, which boasts some of Seattles best and brightest stage talentin this show, Paul Morgan Stetler, Amy Thone, Jen Taylor, and Darragh Kennan. At a time when major theaters are trimming their budgets, itll be fascinating to see what artists with passion, talent, and only $55,000raised from family and friendscan do with Rices rarely produced trophy work. JOHN LONGENBAUGH [Also see Kevin Phinney's review here, and more from Longenbaugh here.] ACT Theatre, 700 Union St., 292-7676, www.newcenturytheatre
company.org. $20-$25. 8 p.m. Thurs.-Sat., 2 p.m. Sun. Ends Dec. 13.
Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Starts: Nov. 13. Continues through Dec. 13, 2008