"Let's start with a single, simple word,
Power ... I don't know of a better (play) of its genre since The
Glass Menagerie..." The New York Post
Our second production of the 1997-1998 presented a modern American Classic. Written in 1970, the play had a very successful run Off-Broadway. The following year it was awarded the Pulitzer Prize and the Drama Critics' Circle Award for best play of the 1970-71 season. Melvin Bernhardt who directed the play in London as well as Broadway received an Obie for Distinguished
Direction. The play was certainly a deviation from our normal productions but the winter slot is one where, traditionally, risks are taken and this was no exception. Stephanie and Angus Hepburn
switched hats for this one with Stephanie playing the lead in the production and Angus directing. The text we used was a compilation of the American and English versions.
The play is set in an old vegetable and fruit shop that has long since gone out of business under the relentless onslaught of quick-frozen vegetables and the ubiquitous supermarket. It is
inhabited by Beatrice (Stephanie Hepburn), the daughter of the original owner, and her two daughters Ruth (Leah Shankman) with her fantasies of sexiness and fashion, who has long since been driven to epileptic fits, and Matilda (Samantha Sklaar) who survives by withdrawing into a world she has found in the simplicity and beauty of science ... the atom from which we are all built and to which we will all dissolve.
The play, possibly because of its television background, is episodic in nature with scenes showing key times between the planting of the marigolds and their presentation at the school Science Fair.
The problem comes in trying to maintain the continuity of the scenes, distinguishing between them while maintaining the continuity of the whole. We overcame this problem by using live music to link across the transitions coupled with a light change to pale low-level blue light (a dream stage) while the members of the cast did any set changing that was necessary, never really stepping out of character. The pianist (Robert Vitale) was located on stage (upstage right) and watched the action along with the audience. All the music was improvised around Satie's Trois Gymnopedie using major and minor sections as themes depending on the mood of the particular transition and to comment on the action.
The production was a welcome return to the stage for Stephanie, the Company's Artistic Director, in one of the strongest female roles in American contemporary theatre. PRT's Children's acting classes led us to the two younger members of the cast. Samantha Sklaar provided us with a wonderful Tillie and completely won the hearts of the audience.
Hannah Friedman played the thoroughly nasty Janice (she of the cat skeleton) and took great delight in describing the "boiling"!
Ruth was played by a newcomer to PRT, Leah Shankman, a graduate of Barnard College. She had worked extensively in New York and trained at the the Lee Strasberg Institute. The silent but omnipresent Nanny saw a welcome return to PRT by Jane Reibel who had last appeared with us in The Good Doctor. Last, but not least, we must not forget our youngest cast member - Pookie, the Sklaar's pet rabbit who played Peter with great professionalism! He was also our youngest cast member ever since he was only a few months old when he made his debut on the Paramount stage!
On the production side, Angus Hepburn directed for the first time for PRT although had directed before in Edinburgh. The Vitales were well represented in the show for while Robert played piano, Stephanie stage managed for us ably assisted by Robert Shubin, fresh from his role as the Russian Officer in Arms and the Man. As always, Lights and sound were run for us by Curtis St. John and the Paramount staff.
The Effect of Gamma Rays
On Man-In-The-Moon Marigolds
by Paul Zindel
directed by Angus Hepburn
Cast in order of appearance