By Catherine Wagley
By Channing Sargent
By L.A. Weekly critics
By Amanda Lewis
By Catherine Wagley
By Carol Cheh
By Keegan Hamilton
By Bill Raden
Yet neither the play nor this musical adaptation is primarily about economics, but rather about metaphysics, which would explain director Ron Sossi's fascination with it.
The operatic, often dissonant and percussive music has almost no melody, which is exactly right in a story that drives a spike through the heart of sentimentality and romance — which melodies invariably carry. Zero's wife is a hideous, jealous, nagging monstrosity — that would be the character, not Kelly Lester's spirited interpretation, which contains echoes of Angela Lansbury.
On the night of his firing, Zero blithely leaves a dinner party to go with the police. He makes no apology for murdering the boss (Alan Abelew) who fired him after 25 years of service with the typical weaselly rationalizations that have once more become so common in the American workplace.
Nor is Zero particularly upset at being locked up on death row, though the hellfire-and-brimstone ravings of an evangelical Christian give him pause.
He winds up instead in the Elysian Fields, where so many other criminals have gone after death. Looks like God's morality isn't quite what's in the Bible. The colleague who loved Zero unrequitedly (the marvelous Christine Horn) joins him there, having offed herself after his execution. For the way God really works, and the way dead souls are recycled, you have to see the show.
Sossi directs a strong production, though with minimal silk drops representing the afterlife, it didn't look much different from the drab life herein. That minimalism does subvert the moral joke.
On opening night, the actors' operatic strengths still needed strengthening, though the vigor with which Morts howled out his euphoria over his last supper of "Ham and Eggs" was a divine grunt that must have been heard in Heaven.
Patrick Kenny's musical direction strikes nice balances between the onstage band and the singers. The actors just need to settle in and push out the fun they're already having.
PUZZLER | By PADRAIC DUFFY | SACRED FOOLS THEATER, 660 N. Heliotrope Drive, L.A. | Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m. | Through Feb. 19 | (310) 281-8337
ADDING MACHINE: A MUSICAL | By JOSHUA SCHMIDT and JASON LOEWITH, adapted from the play by ELMER RICE | ODYSSEY THEATRE, 20555 S. Sepulveda Blvd., W.L.A. | Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun., 2 p.m. (Sunday perfs Jan. 23 and Feb. 27 at 7 p.m.) | Through March 20 | (310) 477-2055