Asheville – Radium Girls was intense, provocative, and even funny at times.
Telling the true story of teenage girls and women who became fatally ill from working at factories that used radium, the performances were impressively engaging. Quite often, the sheer heartbreak or dark irony elicited loud, vocal reactions from me.
Even with all the information given to the audience, it was never exposition, making the play move with a quiet urgency. Matilyn Hull, who portrays real-life “radium girl” Grace Fryer with a deep vulnerability, told me how much she enjoyed that aspect of the writing. The characters learn things as they happen.
The cast is filled with that humanity, even as they take on multiple roles. Even many of the ostensible “villains” are delivered with shades of gray rather than completely black and white perspectives. Some of that is attributed to D.W. Gregory’s dialogue, but much is the work of the actors and director, Hannah Williams.
Another ingenious and effective choice made by Williams was the way she handled the challenges of having only one entrance to the performance space. With the only option being a small set of stairs in the center of the stage, she chose to have the actors remain in character as they passed by each other. While it may seem like a small detail to mention, it kept me fully in the story, rather than being pulled out of it momentarily.
It also added another layer to the relationships that were unfolding. While this show’s foundation seems at first glance to be entirely plot-driven, it is those relationships that really build the drama, humor, and tension.
I was concerned about Kai Strange’s masterful stage makeup because I am easily disturbed by things like that. However, he gave us a realism that never crossed over into gratuitous.
Radium Girls offers an important part of our history and still has very relevant points of view on both the plight of American workers and our corrupt healthcare system.
It was one of those plays that captured me from the beginning and never released me. Days later, I find I am still thinking about it all.
Performances are Friday and Saturdays at 7:00 p.m. and Sundays at 2:00 p.m. through October 1st.
HART Theatre’s Good Ol Girls Was an Absolute Treat!
First produced in 2010, the musical is a series of vignettes and monologues about women. They are women we know, and sometimes women we are or have been.
With lyrics and music written by two prominent Nashville songwriters, it is no surprise that the songs are radio-quality work. Of course, it does help that this cast does a fantastic job delivering them, especially when it comes to the gorgeous harmonies.
The live band onstage added that porch-pickin’-party feel to the show. If you’ve spent any time with musicians in the south, you’ve been to at least one pickin’ party.
The production opened with the quirky, funny, uptempo title song, but quickly switched gears to a story and song that drew the audience in, building the relationships between the characters and endearing us to them.
Throughout the night, we watched these women address their fears, celebrate their strengths, and reveal their vulnerabilities. Tackling body image issues, abuse, assault, and a variety of the ways women are exploited and condemned by society. Sometimes bawdy, sometimes crushing, but always with a great deal of heart and humor.
Adding to the down-home feel that director Sheila Sumpter has wonderfully curated, there is also the option for the audience to enjoy dinner from local food trucks.
Good Ol Girls runs through Sunday, October 8th, with 7:30 p.m. performances on Fridays and Saturdays (also Thursday, October 5th), and Sunday matinees at 2:30 p.m.