Review: “The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds”

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The Studio Theatre in Bunce Hall at Rowan was host to Paul Zindel’s award-winning play, “The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds,” for a short stint beginning last Thursday.

The production was put on by the Rowan Lab Theatre, a student-run organization that gives an opportunity for three to four students to produce and direct a show in the black box theatre each school year.

“Gamma Rays” presents a toxic family in the 1970s and a daughter’s love for the atom. It was the first show of the Lab season, running Oct. 6-8.

As the lights came up, the character Tillie, portrayed by freshman Madison Roberts, appeared center stage surrounded by fog. The green and yellow lights illuminated by a disco ball showed a beaten-up fridge, a rabbit cage, and a worn-down couch.

The set, designed by Emma Muha, allowed the audience to immerse themselves in the impoverished ’70s household.

It was a feeling of bittersweet nostalgia as the three women took their place on stage.  

Senior theatre major Eibhleann Clyne played Beatrice, a mother whose insecurities and jealous tendencies created a harsh environment for her two daughters, Tillie and Ruth.

Clyne’s performance was impeccable. Her richness and dynamic presence on the stage engaged the audience with her actions. Clyne brought vulnerability and depth to a character that might normally displease an audience.

Roberts played the role of Tillie, a timid daughter but brilliant student, with grace, letting the audience in on her character’s secrets and passionate talks about science. Ruth, the older, sassier daughter, played by senior theatre major Emily Marie Lewis, was multi-dimensional.

Lewis uncovered the hidden truths of the character and surprised the audience with several of her character’s twists, including a history of night terrors and seizures.

The balance of the three women created a dynamic and poignant atmosphere. Clyne, Roberts and Lewis were a talented team that perfectly revealed a story highlighting the battles of an impoverished, fatherless family.

Other characters were the nanny and Janice, played by Adriana Santilli and Brittany Colon; each got an opportunity to play both parts. Santilli lit up the stage with comedic relief in her performance as the nanny on opening night.

One might have thought that the part suggested a stereotypical old woman, but Santilli truly showed the character’s unique personality through limited lines.

Perhaps one of the most inventive aspects of the show was the score. Showrunner Angela Longo underscored the entire play with songs by popular recording artist Sia, creating a relevance with the audience.

It showed that, although placed in the ’70s, the conflicts occurring within the family were reflective of real and current family issues.  

“The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds” showed the importance of family and outside relationships.

The direction under Longo was new and exciting. She brought the audience into the world of Beatrice, Tillie and Ruth, while successfully transferring the issues in a ’70s-era home to an audience in 2016 through movement, sound and high stakes performed by the actors on stage.

“Gamma Rays” had a successful run as part of the Lab Theatre at Rowan. Although the show has officially ended, Lab Theatre will be producing two more this year: “One Night” by Charles Fuller, directed by Kelsey Romeo, and “for colored girls who have considered suicide / when the rainbow is enuf” by Ntozake Shange, directed by Kianna Price.

Both shows will debut in the spring semester and are free to Rowan students with a valid ID.

For comments/questions about this story, email arts@thewhitonline.com or tweet @TheWhitOnline.

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