Theatre Review: Fearless Productions Stages Powerful Family Drama

SOMERSET, NJ–Every now and again, a devotee of a particular art lets one slip by.

During the days of broadcast television, irritated Star Trek or I Love Lucy fans would often lament about that one episode they kept missing.

Such is the case with this reviewer when it came to Paul Zindel’s Pulitzer Prize winning drama, "The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds."

The ambiguous title, bordering on a non sequitur, caused a plot assumption that kept this drama on the bottom of this reviewer’s list for over a decade.

As the title might indicate, this reviewer entered Villagers Black Box expecting to see a stage work reminiscent of a Doctor Who episode.  Nope…

Rather, this reviewer was treated to a well-composed drama written in the sixties and staged in the seventies that was far ahead of its time.

Instead of a Sci-Fi yarn, Zimmer’s work focused on soon to be discovered issues as co-dependency and gave the audience a window into the horrors of growing up under the tyranny of an alcoholic parent.

At lights rise, we meet Matilda, the lost child in this family dynamic who hides from reality in her intellect.

Though introspected and introverted she is the quiet force of strength that gives this very dysfunctional family the credibility needed to keep the outside world at bay. Madelyn Barkocy’s performance was solid, touching and credible.

Mary Sullivan as the overbearing, bullying and cowardly alcoholic mother Beatrice, whose deliberate act of cruelty toward one of her daughters, had many in the audience wanting to administer a collective backhand across her mouth, hit all the marks.

Ruth, the scapegoat in this soup of dysfunction holds the truth and knows how to wield it offensively.

Her verbal salvos at her mother, forces that truth to surface. Retaliation for those salvos lead to this family’s near collapse.

Kristin Bennett, no stranger to non-equity New Jersey Theater, as always gave a very watchable performance.

Co-director Linda J. Correll helped to convey a put-upon character to the audience through stagecraft, namely the elderly and abused Nanny, Linda, who had no lines.

Emma Tilly rounded out this fine cast with a pithy and well-done performance of Janice.

Though Emma gave a fine performance as Janice, it was a bit of a challenge at first to distinguish her from Matilda. As she spoke, it was apparent she was another character and all was well.

A pet cage was placed directly in front of Nanny a non-speaking character. Ms. Correll was relying on nuances to bring this character to life.

Blocked by this prop, a good portion of the audience was unable to view these nuances. Placing props directly in audience sightlines seems to be a growing issue with directors who should know better.

Regrettably this well done parlor drama  has a limit run. But it will be another feather in Fearless Production’s impressive cap.

For more info about their upcoming productions, visit their website at www.fearlessprod.com.