Pictured: Brian Kraemer as Mr. Zero and Ross Rubin as Lt. Charles. (Photo by John Potter)

All reviews are written by Cappies student critics and edited by Cappies adult mentors prior to publishing.

Madelyn Paquette, a student at McLean High School , reviews “The Adding Machine” performed by The New School of Northern Virginia , as part of The Cappies Critics and Awards Program .

An accountant’s life is full of problems, but for Mr. Zero, they are not all of the mathematical variety. A suffocating marriage, a dreary career, and a hidden crush afflict his mortal years, and his troubles only multiply after his death. The New School of Northern Virginia proved that one half realistic drama plus one half existential tragedy equals one interesting production of The Adding Machine.

The Adding Machine was written by Elmer Rice in 1923. It was adapted into a 1969 feature film, as well as a musical that opened Off-Broadway in 2008. The play tells the story of Mr. Zero, an accountant who is fired from his job and replaced by an adding machine after twenty-five years working at the same company. Seized by a blind rage, he murders his boss, and the consequences of this action lead him to a profound revelation about the value of a soul.

In the New School’s production, six different actors and actresses took on the role of Mr. Zero. Their different depictions of the many facets of his emotional turmoil proved that, in this case, six Zeros are greater than one.

Brian Kraemer, who portrayed Mr. Zero during the crucial courtroom scene, was a standout among the rotating cast. While some of his colleagues, at times, struggled to maintain energy and emotional commitment, Kraemer commanded the stage and made strong vocal choices during his time in the spotlight. His monologue was among the most powerful moments of the play, as he vividly brought Zero’s desperation to life onstage. Maren Berg also gave a spirited performance as Mr. Zero in the graveyard, allowing the show to smoothly transition from realism into more abstract territory.

The supporting ensemble was an important presence in the show, and provided a consistent canvas for the misfortunes of Mr. Zero. As Daisy, Shannon Mendonca successfully captured the suicidal misery of working a joyless job, and loving a distant married man. She captured this in her deadpan delivery of lines. Ross Rubin also distinguished himself as Lt. Charles, handling the show’s philosophical denouement with an untiring commitment to his aggressive character.

The minimalistic technical elements complemented the fluidity of the production’s staging. The use of simple chairs for all set pieces was creative, and made transitions between scenes exceptionally smooth. The blue and grey floor treatment and the paper draped from the ceiling contributed to an appropriately eerie onstage atmosphere. Lighting was very well-executed, with sharp transitions and a shadowy ambiance that helped effectively set the mood during scenes.

The Adding Machine raises difficult questions about the coldness of technology and the value of love, which are more relevant than ever in an increasingly electronic world. The story of Mr. Zero is a cautionary tale with an important message: a machine can never be more valuable than a human soul. The New School of Northern Virginia capably explored these weighty themes in its unique production of The Adding Machine.