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Theater Review

Monstrous Mom Plants Seeds of Shame in 'Marigolds'

October 10, 2002|LYNNE HEFFLEY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

"Mommy Dearest" has nothing on Beatrice, the ferociously embittered, narcissistic mother in Paul Zindel's Pulitzer Prize-winning drama, "The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds."

It's a meaty role, and Helen Wilson makes a forceful meal of it in Kindling Theatre Company's otherwise too-earnest production directed by Ximena Solimano at the Stella Adler Theatre. The torment is palpable when Wilson's gravel-voiced, chain-smoking Beatrice drips sarcasm and lashes out in rage at her two teenage daughters, doing her tormented best to instill them with her own sense of failure, ugliness and shame before the world does it for her.

As the scapegoat younger daughter, Tillie, who finds her hopeful path to freedom through a transcendent enthusiasm for the wonders of science, Marni Raitt is a graceful presence but registers little angst amid the chaos. Bernadette Guckin is intermittently affecting as Ruth, the mentally fragile favorite who seems doomed to suffer most from her nearer proximity to the relentless maternal dysfunction.

In supporting roles, Danielle De Luca makes an appearance as Tillie's morbid science-fair rival, and Olga Gorelik, as aged, non compos mentis Nanny, is much too youthful to be convincing despite a thick layer of strange, grayish-white mime-face make-up.

*

"The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds," Stella Adler Theatre, 6773 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood. Fridays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. through Oct. 27. $10 to $12. (323) 654-8113. Run time: 90 minutes.

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