Theater roundup: Two compelling visions of dysfunction
Even with the stamp of approval of the Pulitzer Prize and the name recognition that comes with a film version that starred Joanne Woodward, Paul Zindel's stage play The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds is rarely revived. It is a fragile tale of a young girl's survival despite a bitter, abusive mother, a play that could easily be derailed in lesser hands, but you would never suspect that from viewing the assured production at Palm Beach Dramaworks. ...Making her professional debut as Tillie is Arielle Hoffman, a high school senior with a promising future as an actress. The play allows her little opportunity to express her inner turmoil, but she manages to do so wordlessly. And late in the evening, as she confronts her fears and addresses a school assembly about her science project, we begin to see glimmers of Tillie's inner strength. Hoffman is overshadowed by Laura Turnbull -- who happens to be her real-life mother -- devouring the role of volatile Beatrice. She is despicable to be sure, yet without softening any of that, Turnbull lets us see the humanity underneath her armor. Credit director William Hayes with deftly orchestrating his cast, including Skye Coyne as Ruth and a frail-looking Harriet Oser as Nanny, an aged boarder to whom Beatrice rents out a room to and belittles... Virtually another character is the stunning, if drab, two-level living quarters designed by Michael Amico, further evidence that he has mastered Dramaworks' new space at the Don & Ann Brown Theatre.