The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds by Paul Zindel
August 19, 21, 23, 26
An interview with Amy DeFelice.
Describe your show in one sentence.
1971 Pulitzer and Obie prize winning play about a family of misfits in a harsh world.
Okay, now that we’re intrigued… what’s the longer description of your show?
It’s the late 1960s in a small town on Staten Island, NY. Beatrice Hunsdorfer and her two teenage daughters live in her childhood home (her dead father’s old, converted vegetable shop) and survive by taking in decrepit old boarders and dreaming up ways to change their lives. Both her daughters struggle to be accepted at the high school that Beatrice once attended and at which she was bullied, while at home are subjected to Beatrice’s paranoia and rage. The shy younger daughter Tillie undertakes a gamma ray experiment with marigolds that makes her a finalist in her high school science fair. Will this honour save or destroy the family?
How did you come across The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds?
Kate Ryan, Artistic Director of Plain Jane Theatre, was passionate about presenting this play at the Fringe. It is a play that Kate, her sister Bridget and their mother, Marilyn acted in, directed by their dad Tim Ryan, at a previous Fringe. It has strong, complicated female roles. As a teenager, I read most of Paul Zindel’s novels (“The Pigman”, “The Undertaker’s Gone Bananas”) and appreciated his dynamic voice, sense of humour and that his characters dealt with real world problems.
Family is at the centre of The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds. Can you describe the family dynamics at play in this work, and what universal truths does this play centre around?
The play is based on Paul Zindel’s childhood. He described it as “the kind of story that just sort of pops right out of you, because I’ve lived it…He said his mother conditioned him to believe that the world was out to get him, and he retreated into a secret world of puppet shows in cardboard boxes. Mr. Zindel said, he reworked experiences from his high-school teaching days, but in ”The Effects of Gamma Rays,” the character Beatrice ”really conveys my mother and the house I lived in. Like my mother, Beatrice was a scorned woman whose husband had left her, and who was left to raise two kids who were like a stone around her neck. She felt that the world was lurking out there to ridicule her clothes and to attack her with unkindness.” The play is about the love and destruction that can happen in family, sometimes it makes people stronger and other times destroys them.
Anything else you want audiences to know about the show?
Paul Zindel’s mother reacted very poorly to his play and after reading it she said, ‘How could you? How could you expose me to the world as a kleptomaniac and a manic-depressive nurse?’ ” he recalled in an interview last year with School Library Journal. ”I felt so badly the way she had been hurt. But then she asked, ‘Who is going to play me on television?’ When I told her Eileen Heckart” — who won a Golden Globe award and was nominated for an Academy Award for the 1956 thriller ”The Bad Seed” — ”she said, ‘Oh! Well, that’s wonderful, then.’ My mother only cared which actress was going to play her.”
The 36th Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival is August 17 – 27. Get your tickets at tickets.fringetheatre.ca starting August 9.