Radium Girls Review

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Radium Girls Review

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Radium Girls by D.W. Gregory is based on the true story of workers in the U.S. Radium Corporation (USRC) dial-painting factory located in Orange, New Jersey during World War I. The play follows one of the dial-painters, Grace Fryer (Casey Wangman ‘20), who initiated a legal case against the USRC due to their failure to recognize health hazards and other injuries.

The Young Company’s version of Radium Girls opened on Friday, November 9th. This fall, The Young Company had about 6 weeks to design, build and practice a two and half hour show. Despite the extreme time constraints, The Young Company never fails to put together an amazing show. Production Stage Manager, Ariel Chumrley ‘20 notes that, “the company in past years has also been much bigger than it is now. We went from an almost 200 member company to a 65 member company over the course of a few shows.” She is, “super proud of all the hard work that we all did to make this show.” Set Crew Chief Frances Harris ‘20 also mentioned how the time constraint affected her crew and other challenges such as, “making sure everyone who’s involved in the design process has their ideas heard… It always results in a really cool, collaborative set!”

From costumes to lighting, the colors and themes were cohesive and mesmerizing. Granted I watched it opening night, which was their first full runthrough, I sat through a few dull moments where actors needed to speed up their timing and annunciation. Despite this, I never stopped paying attention to the dialogue and details of the set.

I had previously seen Radium Girls at Payton College Prep. Their performance space was a fraction of the size of Whitney Young’s theater, so I was excited to see what The Young Company was going to do with the set. The set consisted of a large main platform with two smaller raised surfaces to the left and right of the platform. At first I was surprised at the simplicity of the set, considering how previous sets have included trap doors, large moving pieces, multiple levels, etc.  But throughout the show I realized how the set served the purpose of switching between many different settings. Scene changes were efficient and the ensemble did a great job of helping out with them. Members of the set crew also dressed up in 1920’s attire to bring furniture on and off the stage.

I was pleased to see how The Young Company included the radium green in different aspects of the show. From the back lighting to set pieces to costumes, the radium green tones sprinkled throughout the show were intentional and surprising. Props also did a great job of using old bags and furniture to curate messy coffee tables and desk spaces.

Casey Wangman ‘20 describes the challenges she faced becoming Grace Fryer. She said her biggest challenge was, “accurately depicting the progression of her sickness as well as her progression as a rule follower to standing up to the injustices she faces.” Casey did a great job capturing Grace’s intense fear of the radium factory; which was my favorite part of the show. She said she had to learn to react, “like its a new experience every time even though [Grace] knows what comes next.” I won’t give too much away but the lighting, sound, acting and makeup put together a cohesive creepy moment that had me on the edge of my seat from beginning to blackout.

There were times when makeup and lighting did not match, making it hard to see the actor’s facial expressions. The actors voices were never lost until, at the fault of our old sound system, actors went in and out of being audible and inaudible. Luckily, Sam Andrews ‘21, and other cast members did a great job of protecting to the audience while also staying in character. Props to Molly Clemente ‘20 as well who performed an amazing 1920’s American accent. Overall the factory workers, played by Nariya Douglas ‘19, Elle Reiter ‘22 and Casey Wangman ‘20, did a spectacular job with developing and expressing their sickness.

The Young Company’s production of Radium Girls is based on a true story that is has been forgotten in our history. They beautify tell the journey of young women who stood against all odds to stand up for what they believed in.

If you haven’t gotten a chance to see it, The Young Company has four more shows:

Thursday November 15th, at 5pm

Friday November 16th, at 7pm

Saturday November 17th at 2pm and 7pm.

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