REVIEW: The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds
By Olin Meadows
Austin Theatre Project, one of the newest theatre companies in Austin, is presenting the often talked about - but rarely-produced - drama, The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man in the Moon Marigolds, as its second production. Written by Paul Zindel, the play looks at the lives of the Hunsdorfer Family - a single mother, her two daughters, and the elderly woman she takes care of for fifty dollars a week. Without giving away too much information, the play focuses around the themes of mental illness, and its effects on the entire family.
The production sports a small but talented cast, made up entirely of first-time Austin actresses. The driving force behind this dynamic show is Maureen Slabaugh as "Beatrice Hunsdorfer," the mother of the crew, who creates a wide range of emotions and reactions to the everyday life around her. The youngest daughter "Tillie" is performed by Kelly Matthews, who does a great job in expressing the changes and growth that her character undergoes, and how she deals with her crazy family. Her performance was one of the strongest out of the whole cast; as an actress, she allows the audience to take the narratife journey with her, instead of just watching it unfold.
Honorable mention goes to an actress making her Austin debut, even though I have reviewed her before in performances in Round Rock and Georgetown. Although she never speaks during the entire show, Veronica Prior - who portrays "Nanny," the elderly woman in the care of Beatrice - creates a true character without uttering a word. Watching her performance, you know exactly what her character has gone through and who she truly is. In fact, I think that words would just complicate her performance.
Director Ellie McKaye has done a stunning job in her Austin debut, creating a well-rounded show filled with moving and poignant moments. A lot of the credit needs to go to the Producing and Artistic Directors of the Austin Theatre Project, Barbara Schuler and David Blackburn, as both have done a fantastic job in selecting a season filled with rarely produced gems - from their initial production of Corpus Christi to their inaugural season closer, the musical Baby. Sure to be long-lasting Austin theatre company, stay tuned for more great things to come from this dynamic team. Earning "4 Out of 5 Stars," make time to enjoy these Marigolds before it is too late!