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Rice, Elmer

Entry updated 12 September 2022. Tagged: Author, Theatre.

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First the pseudonym, then the legal name of US playwright and author born Elmer Leopold Reizenstein (1892-1967), active from around 1914. Of his plays, The Adding Machine: A Play in Seven Scenes (performed 1923; 1923) follows its protagonist, Mr Zero, from suicide into heaven – which he despises because it is full of indecent creatures like Rabelais and Jonathan Swift – and back to Earth, where he is transformed into the work-slave designated by the title. A Voyage to Purilia (12 October-21 December 1929 The New Yorker; 1930), a novel, combines a deft use of sf instruments – the protagonists travel to the planet Purilia in a ship propelled by Antigravity – with a very extensive guying of Utopian assumptions. On Purilia, life mirrors the gestural and narrative Clichés of the last days of the silent film (see Cinema) – the implication being that utopian worlds are as fatuously bound by rigmarole and fetish as the "normal" lives depicted in the classic Hollywood films (see California) – and the protagonist escapes marriage, which is identical to a Hollywood fade-out, by the skin of his teeth. [JC]

Elmer Rice

born New York: 28 September 1892

died Southampton, Hampshire: 8 May 1967



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