Looking at SBCC’s production of “Machinal,” this revival of a 1928 play, one can peer back into a time of anxiety, where on one hand industrialization was changing society at a rapid pace, where city life was all anonymity and alienation, and on the other hand, one can see a time when social mores were changing and becoming more liberal. There was awareness of being stuck in a machine, but no sense of how to get out of it. At the same time, we can look from 1928’s perspective and see how a lot of “Machinal” reverberates though dystopian fiction in the following decades.
But unlike one particular film contemporary, Fritz Lang’s “Metropolis,” there is no hero to free us from our chains. Unlike Terry Gilliam’s “Brazil,” there is no tongue-in-cheek humor or a male protagonist. And unlike Orwell’s “1984” or Huxley’s “Brave New World,” this isn’t the future.