Quest for meaning portrayed in "Adding Machine: A Musical" at Willamette

For 25 years, Mr. Zero chugged along unthinkingly at his job adding figures. But instead of being rewarded for his slavish devotion, he is fired just prior to retirement and replaced by a machine.

Playing at Willamette University April 12–28, “Adding Machine: A Musical” is based on the 1923 play by Elmer Rice. Times may have changed since the play’s debut, but to director Jessica Wallenfels, the plot is far from outdated.

“This is a very old story and yet it breathes like new,” she says. “It’s still applicable to today’s technology, as well as to outsourcing and the way we treat labor in a global sense.”

“Adding Machine: A Musical” is a simultaneously compelling, engaging and dramatic telling of the story of a man’s quest for meaning, Wallenfels says, adding that the production's innovative, contemporary score and stunning design complement the story's imperative to examine one's own life.

“It makes people question their own conformity, whether they have given up on forgotten dreams as they pursued their day-to-day lives,” Wallenfels says. “I think this piece veers from a very dark, black comedy to an existential questioning about what freedom means.”

Ticket sales

A preview performance of “Adding Machine: A Musical” is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. April 12; tickets are $8. The remaining performances are set for 2 p.m. April 15, 22 and 28 and 7:30 p.m. April 13–14, 19–21 and 26–28. Tickets for these showings cost $12 for general admission, $8 for students and seniors 65 and older, and $10 per person for groups of 10 or more.

All performances will be staged in the Pelton Theatre at Willamette University, 900 State St. in Salem.

Tickets may be purchased at the door and by calling the WU Theatre Box Office at 503-370-6221. They are also available at Travel Salem, 181 High St., 503-581-4325, and online at