Thursday, April 24, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

Acme’s historical ‘Radium Girls’ has message for today

Dialpainters Irene (Margaret Starbuck), Grace (Camila Biaggi) and Kathryn (Eden Tomich) gossip during their work at the U.S. Radium Corporation, unaware of the dangers the radium-based paint poses. Fred Gladdis/Enterprise photo

By
From page A9 | January 08, 2013 | Leave Comment

Check it out

What: “Radium Girls”

Where: Pamela Trokanski Performing Arts Center, 2720 Del Rio Place

When: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday

Tickets: $12 general, $10 seniors, $8 students; save $2 online at brownpapertickets.com

Info: Acmetheatre.net

I am continually amazed that Acme Theatre Company, whose young members spend a maximum of three, possibly four years, performing with the group before moving on to college, continue to present some of the most professional theatrical productions around.

The company also continues to present shows that make us laugh and think, and especially leave us with topics to talk about, topics that may have a historical context, but that are relevant even today.

“Radium Girls,” by D.W. Gregory, covers one of those topics. At the dawn of the 20th century, according to program notes, radium was full of glowing promise and represented the bright potential of scientific progress. The Curies were celebrities and radium’s fantastical healing properties were an overnight sensation. Radium-infused toothpaste, hair creams, medicinal waters and make-up were made quickly available to the public.

In 1917, the U.S. Radium Corp. opened a factory in Orange, N.J., and began hiring young women to paint the small, glowing numbers on watch dials. The job paid well and the work was challenging, but appealing, until the dial-painters began experiencing health problems, which were not properly diagnosed.

When studies linked the strange physical conditions — rotting jaw bones, various cancers, necropsy of extremities — to radium, U.S. Radium Corp. covered up the findings and insisted that their plant was “clean” and presented no danger to the workers.

“Radium Girls” follows the case of three young women — Grace (Camila Biaggi), Kathryn (Eden Tomich) and Irene (Margaret Starbuck) — as they first work for the plant and then, one by one, begin to get ill. After Irene’s death, Grace and Kathryn decide to bring a lawsuit against the plant, and the plot is on.

Grace is the longest-lasting and hardest-fighting of the trio and we watch her character grow throughout the play. Her formal education ended at age 15 and she starts as a naive thing who trusts that her employer will take care of her, but she learns a lot along the way and ends up much stronger for it. It is a beautiful performance by Biaggi.

The play, which is staged at the Pamela Trokanski Performing Arts Center on Del Rio Place (a perfect venue for Acme!), is directed by Maddy Ryen and includes eight actors, six of whom play many different roles. There is not a weak performance in the lot.

Will Kingscott is the other actor playing only one role, that of Arthur Roeder, the president of U.S. Radium Corp., torn between his drive to lead his company and to deny any responsibility for the girls’ illnesses, and his deeply embedded desire to be a good guy. We want to hate him, but Kingscott makes us feel the character’s dilemma. In the courtroom, and later at the cemetery, he is so guilt-ridden that he cannot look Grace in the eye.

In addition to playing Irene, Starbuck also appears as Kathryn Wiley, the lawyer whose determination kept the suit active but who, in the end, uses the girls for her own group’s purposes almost as much as their employer does.

Miki Benson and Wil Forkin are perfect as the newspaper reporters hungry for every gruesome detail about the girls’ illnesses and giddy with delight when some new tragedy befalls them. They are too sadly reminiscent of the paparazzi, celebrity reporters and talking heads of today.

Forkin also plays Grace’s long-suffering, devoted boyfriend, Tom, who stands by her through the early days of what ultimately will be her fatal illness.

Antonio De Loera-Brust is both Von Sochocky, the man who originally founded U.S. Radium and who developed the radium paint that is killing the workers, and the attorney who represents the corporation in the lawsuit, who attempts to buy the girls’ silence with a fairly low settlement offer.

In smaller roles are Katy Zaragoza-Smith, Brian Stewart and Matt Fyhrie, all of whom deliver the goods for their many characters.

Kudos also to whoever had the idea of using radiation green to light the back of the stage during scene changes!

Despite the depressing topic, there are some lighter moments that break the tension, but ultimately there can be no happy ending.

Director Ryen has created a tightly woven production that should remind all of us how little practices have changed in the business world today, as far too many corporations still value profits over the welfare of their workers.

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | No comments

The Davis Enterprise does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

  • Recent Posts

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this newspaper and receive notifications of new articles by email.

  • .

    News

     
    4-H members get ready for Spring Show

    By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A1 | Gallery

     
    Will city move forward on public power review?

    By Dave Ryan | From Page: A1

     
    Obama to Russia: More sanctions are ‘teed up’

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

     
    2 pursuits, 2 arrests keep Woodland officers busy

    By Lauren Keene | From Page: A2

     
     
    Youth sports in focus on radio program

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

     
    Rummage sale will benefit preschool

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Concert benefits South Korea exchange

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

     
    Conference puts focus on Arab studies

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Davis honors ‘green’ citizens

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

     
    Water rate assistance bill advances

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

    Program explores STEM careers for girls

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5, 1 Comment

     
    Embroiderers plan a hands-on project

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

    Central Park Gardens to host Volunteer Orientation Day

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5 | Gallery

     
    Volkssporting Club plans North Davis walks

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

    Hotel/conference center info meeting set

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

     
    MOMS Club plans open house

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7

     
    Cycle de Mayo benefits Center for Families

    By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A8

    Author to read ‘The Cat Who Chose to Dream’

    By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A12

     
    .

    Forum

    Things are turning sour

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: B5

     
    The high cost of employment

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6, 1 Comment

    High-five to Union Bank

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

     
    Broken sprinklers waste water

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

    Three more administrators?

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

     
    Neustadt has experience for the job

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

    Here’s a plan to save big on employee costs

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A6, 3 Comments

     
    Davis is fair, thoughtful

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

    Ortiz is the right choice for Yolo

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

     
    Tom Meyer cartoon

    By Debbie Davis | From Page: A6

    .

    Sports

    DHS tracksters sweep another DVC meet

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    Another DVC blowout for DHS girls soccer

    By Evan Ream | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    Young reinvents his game to help Aggies improve on the diamond

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    DHS boys shuffle the deck to beat Cards

    By Thomas Oide | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    DHS/Franklin II is a close loss for Devil softballers

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

     
    Baseball roundup: Giants slam Rockies in the 11th

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

     
    UCD roundup: Aggies lose a softball game at Pacific

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B3

     
    Jahn jumps to Sacramento Republic FC

    By Evan Ream | From Page: B8

    .

    Features

    .

    Arts

    Congressional art competition open to high school students

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

     
    Emerson, Da Vinci to present ‘Once Upon a Mattress’

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

     
    Winters Plein Air Festival begins Friday

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

     
    Bach Soloists wrap up season on April 28

    By Jeff Hudson | From Page: A11

     
    .

    Business

    .

    Obituaries

    .

    Comics

    Comics: Thursday, April 24, 2014

    By Creator | From Page: B6