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Shining Off: Gamma an Irradiant Shot

By Dan L. Wagner

THEATER

The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds

Written by Paul Zindel

Directed by Sara Yellen '00

Starring Anne Jump '01

Hanna Stotland (HLS)

Jamie Smith '02

Loeb Ex

Oct. 21-23

Late in the second act of The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds, when Hanna Stotland (Harvard Law School) as Beatrice proclaims (more to the audience than to the other actors on stage), "I hate the world... I hate the world...", the audience might reply that this point is already abundantly clear.

What this production needs more than anything is a healthy shot of subtlety. As produced by Erica Rabbit '00 and directed by Sara Yellen '00, the effective moments of this play are unfortunately interspersed with incongruities, overwrought dramatic moments, and missed opportunities.

Gamma Rays is, as written, a fairly naturalistic piece of theater. The story centers on the experience of Tillie (Anne Jump '01), a high school-aged girl with an unpleasant and destructive home life and the events and beliefs which allow her to transcend it.

Although one might argue that one of the premises, the idea that Tillie would create an science fair-winning set of marigolds which had been exposed to certain types of radiation, is somewhat implausible, the scenes of the play focus not on such plot-driving points, but on the interactions between Tillie's bitter, estranged mother (Stotland), Tillie and her sister Ruth (Jamie Smith '02).

Nothing within this framework of family drama warrants Yellen's use of frequent and distracting mid-scene lighting changes, loud and obtrusive background music (respectably written by Martijn Hostetler '00, who is surely not to blame for the placement of his work) at already obvious emotional high points, and acting that focuses more on the audience and the treatment of the lines than the character within.

The element of the production that does live up to the naturalism implicit in the script is the set, brilliantly designed by Pete Wilson '99. The odd assortment of knickknacks, broken down furniture, and trash evokes the chaos and turmoil in ways that many of the performances, alas, do not.

The shining exception to this is the work of Smith as Ruth, who intelligently centers her performance on the identity of her character and delivers her lines as the character. Stotland is not so fortunate--she rarely transcends a simple line-reading and performs with little emotional variation, save a certain modulation of volume with which she attempts to point out to the audience which lines are important.

The actors may have fared better had the makeup design made some pretense of realistically defining the characters' ages. Alas, the audience is thus left to wonder how Stotland could possibly be the mother of Jump and Smith, save for the fact that she walks more slowly and speaks without the breathy, childish tone that Jump seems to mistake for the way high school students actually speak.

It is clear at many points during the evening that the actors have been instructed to play for laughs. In some cases, their attempts are even convincing. Note, for example, the physical comedy employed by Dale Shuger '00 as Nanny, the old woman that Beatrice houses and takes care of, abusing her all the while. Or see Carrie-Anne Dedeo's '00 delivery of her one moment in the show, a surprisingly funny monologue in the form of a science fair presentation. One could easily question, though, whether these moments contribute to the flow of the piece, or whether they simply stand in the way of the emotional void at its core.

It frequently appears that the director is in flight from the severity of the family relationships that comprise the bulk of the script. It is plausible that with an expert ensemble and less sluggish staging and pacing, this play might present the possibility for some very comic moments.

However, it seems clear that, given the resources of this particular production, more attention should have been paid to simply communicating the emotions of the characters and the intriguing juxtaposition between the chaos of the home and the solace that Tillie finds in her science experiments.

Overall, the evening is more confusing than painful. And perhaps a bit of pain would not be such a bad thing, if this pain represented the connection between the audience and the events on stage that this production sadly fails to achieve.

The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds

Written by Paul Zindel

Directed by Sara Yellen '00

Starring Anne Jump '01

Hanna Stotland (HLS)

Jamie Smith '02

Loeb Ex

Oct. 21-23

Late in the second act of The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds, when Hanna Stotland (Harvard Law School) as Beatrice proclaims (more to the audience than to the other actors on stage), "I hate the world... I hate the world...", the audience might reply that this point is already abundantly clear.

What this production needs more than anything is a healthy shot of subtlety. As produced by Erica Rabbit '00 and directed by Sara Yellen '00, the effective moments of this play are unfortunately interspersed with incongruities, overwrought dramatic moments, and missed opportunities.

Gamma Rays is, as written, a fairly naturalistic piece of theater. The story centers on the experience of Tillie (Anne Jump '01), a high school-aged girl with an unpleasant and destructive home life and the events and beliefs which allow her to transcend it.

Although one might argue that one of the premises, the idea that Tillie would create an science fair-winning set of marigolds which had been exposed to certain types of radiation, is somewhat implausible, the scenes of the play focus not on such plot-driving points, but on the interactions between Tillie's bitter, estranged mother (Stotland), Tillie and her sister Ruth (Jamie Smith '02).

Nothing within this framework of family drama warrants Yellen's use of frequent and distracting mid-scene lighting changes, loud and obtrusive background music (respectably written by Martijn Hostetler '00, who is surely not to blame for the placement of his work) at already obvious emotional high points, and acting that focuses more on the audience and the treatment of the lines than the character within.

The element of the production that does live up to the naturalism implicit in the script is the set, brilliantly designed by Pete Wilson '99. The odd assortment of knickknacks, broken down furniture, and trash evokes the chaos and turmoil in ways that many of the performances, alas, do not.

The shining exception to this is the work of Smith as Ruth, who intelligently centers her performance on the identity of her character and delivers her lines as the character. Stotland is not so fortunate--she rarely transcends a simple line-reading and performs with little emotional variation, save a certain modulation of volume with which she attempts to point out to the audience which lines are important.

The actors may have fared better had the makeup design made some pretense of realistically defining the characters' ages. Alas, the audience is thus left to wonder how Stotland could possibly be the mother of Jump and Smith, save for the fact that she walks more slowly and speaks without the breathy, childish tone that Jump seems to mistake for the way high school students actually speak.

It is clear at many points during the evening that the actors have been instructed to play for laughs. In some cases, their attempts are even convincing. Note, for example, the physical comedy employed by Dale Shuger '00 as Nanny, the old woman that Beatrice houses and takes care of, abusing her all the while. Or see Carrie-Anne Dedeo's '00 delivery of her one moment in the show, a surprisingly funny monologue in the form of a science fair presentation. One could easily question, though, whether these moments contribute to the flow of the piece, or whether they simply stand in the way of the emotional void at its core.

It frequently appears that the director is in flight from the severity of the family relationships that comprise the bulk of the script. It is plausible that with an expert ensemble and less sluggish staging and pacing, this play might present the possibility for some very comic moments.

However, it seems clear that, given the resources of this particular production, more attention should have been paid to simply communicating the emotions of the characters and the intriguing juxtaposition between the chaos of the home and the solace that Tillie finds in her science experiments.

Overall, the evening is more confusing than painful. And perhaps a bit of pain would not be such a bad thing, if this pain represented the connection between the audience and the events on stage that this production sadly fails to achieve.

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