Radium Girls by Springside Chestnut Hill Academy in Willow Grove, PA
April 15, 2019
Review submitted by Sarah Eckstein Indik of Barrack Hebrew Academy
Seemingly a miracle, radium could cure all sorts of ailments, and it was deemed a great discovery… until it started to kill people. With a solid performance, Springside Chestnut Hill Academy’s production of Radium Girls investigated the horrors of radium, science, business, and human greed.
A historical fiction drama, set in the 1920s, Radium Girls, written by D.W Gregory, inspired by real-life events, illustrates the story of Grace Fryer who fights for a court case because of the radium-caused fatal illness which she and others contracted while working for the U.S Radium Corporation.
The vibrant portrayals of the characters anchored this production; all making bold choices, the cast stuck to the period and the American obsession with health and consumerism.
Katie Walker (Grace Fryer) generated an admirable performance, gracefully portraying her character’s shift from physical strength and emotional naivety to physical weakness and stubbornness, beginning with a high-pitched voice and finishing a frail body. A praiseworthy job, Luke Percy (Arthur Roeder) characterized the morally-challenged businessman and chief of the U.S Radium Corporation with ease, unafraid to be stern or to be commanding when confronted by others yet quick to be thoughtful and distressed by his actions when alone.
With great chemistry, the other factory girls, Riley Redpath (Irene Rudolph) and Whimsy Mark-Ockerbloom (Kathryn Schaub) triggered laughter and sympathy from the audience, whether telling funny gossip from the factory or slowly suffering from their ailments. Accurately portraying the role of a powerful man’s wife in the 1920s, Gracie Lubisky (Diane Roeder) depicted her character’s need for a favorable public opinion. Although the pacing was slow at times, and the scenes laden with dramatic pauses, each moment demanded the audience’s attention.
Since the set was ever-changing, frequent scene changes challenged this performance, but the SCH crew trekked on. The special-effects makeup designed and applied by Giulia Giordano and Caden Traversari for those harmed by radium poisoning was graphic and actualized the horrors.
Even when the lights went dark on all the performers, Springside Chestnut Hill Academy’s production of Radium Girls remained bright and painful in the hearts of the audience, much like the glow of radium.
Review submitted by Benna Trachtenberg of Harriton High School
Terrifying working conditions, ignorance, and deathly illness all came together to make Springside Chestnut Hill Academy’s production of Radium Girls an unforgettable experience.
Radium Girls follows three women working in a watch factory who are exposed to excessive amounts of radium. They consume this deathly metal because they are required to paint watch faces with poisonous paint by licking the end of the brush. Since there is a lack of knowledge surrounding radium, many factory workers fall ill. The remainder of the plot surrounds the women’s fight for justice. Written by D.W. Gregory, the play is strongly based around historical events. Overall, the play tells a story of a total obsession with wealth, and complete disregard of the harmful effects of commercialized science.
The committed cast of Radium Girls was extremely mature while handling depressing and startling topics. Despite a lengthy production, the performers were able to remain passionate throughout.
Leading the cast triumphantly was Katie Walker as Grace Fryer. Walker did a marvelous job transforming from an enthusiastic, peppy girl into a sullen, disappointed woman. Her determination was impressive as she fought for her life. Luke Percy as Arthur Roeder perfectly captured the complete lack of knowledge during the time period. His serious demeanor was well executed along with his complete denial of facts in search of success
Playing the sickly Kathryn Schaub was Whimsy Mark-Ockerbloom. Mark-Ockerbloom was able to tackle her intense character with poise. Yofi Guy (Edward Markley) portrayed the classic slimy lawyer quite well. His devotion was great along with his overall stage presence.
Giulia Giordano and Caden Traversari were able to, through hair and makeup, make the slow death of the actors feel real. The dark grey contours added to the show immensely. Moreover, the neon lights, although being somewhat distracting, added to the factory setting. Despite slow-paced set changes, the SCH Run Crew admirably maneuvered delicate set pieces.
Springside Chestnut Hill Academy’s production of Radium Girls was a necessary piece in completing the puzzle of empowerment and the labor rights movement.