Although the playwright of Marigolds
wants you to walk away in awe of some people's resilience to overcome horrific beginnings, the takeaway from Palm Beach Dramaworks' production is the merciless erosion that life blindly wreaks on the human spirit.
This edition of Paul Zindel's The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds
skews to the darker side of that equation because of the overwhelming bravura performance of Laura Turnbull as an embittered, self-pitying mother wildly striking out at her daughters as displaced revenge for the blighted tragedy that chance has made of her life.
It's a scathing, fearless portrait by a great actress with a solid director that leaves everything else, as the apt cliche goes, in the shade.
...Dramaworks Artistic Director William Hayes has guided a strong cast through this examination of the dysfunctional Hunsdorfer family who the Fates themselves have seemingly cursed.
Beatrice (Turnbull) is a single mother whose late husband left her in poverty, driving her into a terminal tailspin of alcohol-enabled self-absorption and unbridled emotional abuse of her two daughters, Tillie and Ruth....
...Tillie (sensitively created by Turnbull's real daughter Arielle Hoffman) is painfully shy and profoundly lonely. Hoffman inhabits someone who expects withering criticism or, just as bad, blithe indifference from the one person who should nurture her. The way she clasps a white rabbit to her chest is heart-breaking...
...Beatrice is marginally kinder to Ruth (well played by Skye Coyne), a troubled girl-woman who is extroverted but emotionally unstable and subject to epileptic fits...
...We've written for years that Turnbull is one of the region's finest actresses. She looks like the soccer mom next door, but her characters always seem to be barely sublimating abysses of angst and anger... A charming woman in person, Turnbull here fearlessly becomes a horrendous creature so wrapped in her own pain that she has little comprehension or regard for anyone else.
Set designer Mike Amico has created an intentionally drab living room, the retro-fitted remains of an old vegetable retail store which itself exudes a sense of hopelessness. As always, Amico is a master of tiny details down to the lightshades, all of which are slightly askew. It's evocatively lit by Sean Dolan who coats the stage with a dappled effect when Tillie is absorbed in her reveries about of science.