Radium Girls shine in moving performance


On Saturday I took in a powerful matinee performance of Melanie Marnich’s “These Shining Lives” directed by faculty member Eric Bishop. The screenplay is set against the backdrop of the roaring 1920’s in the time of the newly independent factory working woman. The production is the true story of the Radium girls, Catherine (Catie) Donahue, Charlotte Purcell, Pearl Payne and Francis O’Connell who lived and worked in Ottawa Illinois, at the Radium Dial Company. Over the course of the time between the mid 1920’s to the 1930’s the women come to realize the radium paint they had been working with daily has given them terminal bone cancer.

The first act opens with Catie Donahue played beautifully by Emily Neifert, getting ready for her first day of work. The scene introduces Catie’s doting husband Tom Donahue, effectively played by Alex Smith, and shows the audience the kind loving nature of their relationship. Moving through act one Catie builds a relationship with three women Frances, Charlotte and Pearl,  (played by Sawyer Henderson, Shelby Caughron, and Brianna Russavage) as the women find their independence in the workplace and become sisters.

As act one draws to a close our protagonist becomes aware that something is amiss with her health.  She knows that there is a connection between the radium paint and her condition. As the women become ill the Radium Dial Company employs their own doctors and dismisses their sickness as arthritis. The scenes between these four ailing women are deep, thoughtful and inspired. Marnick’s exchange with Smith are equally powerful as a husband watches helplessly as the woman he loves more than anything deteriorate before his eyes.

The latter part of the performance is a study in the best and worst of human nature. There is an exchange between Tom Donahue (Smith) and Mr. Reed (Hayden Sproul) that shows these two extremes. The scene opened up and let the audience take part in Tom’s loss as it were our own.

Onstage, there was a beautiful lack of clutter. The set was simple but effective and let the acting shine through on its own merit.  Performance wise These Shining Lives connected on all levels. The emotional aspect of the story was masterfully delivered leaving very few dry eyes in the building.

The technical crew, headed up by Kellie Kissinger did a wonderful job with sound, lighting and stagecraft. These Shining Lives was truly a triumph worthy of Broadway accolades.

Theater Department breathes life into Shakespeare

A plague upon both your houses Last Friday I took in opening night of the Theatre Department’williamshakespeares production of Shakespeare’s immortal Romeo and Juliet. The production directe
d by faculty member Tracy Williams, was a departure from what one thinks when seeing a play written circa 1590s. I found it quite inspiring to see young actors bring the comedy Shakespeare implies in act one, to the modern stage.

The performance was delivered not only from the stage but from all around the audience. Actors’ approached their marks from the side, below and from behind the audience. The thought put into the entrance and exits of the cast truly speaks to the collaboration between Williams and her technical crew. Seeing Romeo approach Juliet’s balcony, centered in the middle of the audience, gave a truly different perspective to Romeo’s desperation. I could tangibly see the thought put into the audience perspective, “Our Romeo and Juliet is a comedy for the first hour and fifteen minutes. It is hip, current, traditional, not time specific, vigorous, lively and clean in its storytelling. There is something for everyone,” said director Williams.Mercutio

 The entire cast delivered a stunning performance. Jonah Duhe, was a perfect fit as young impulsive Romeo. Duhe, played the naive, desperate-hearted protagonist like a sonata. Juliet (Lisa Naudi) brought all her feminine wiles and emotion to Juliet’s iconic balcony scene. “Wherefore art thou Romeo,” delivered by Naudi clad in all white, was breathtaking. I was particularly struck by the dark, unsettling scene with the Apothecary (John McCoy) and Romeo’s purchase of his final drink. The exchange in this scene sent a cold chill through the audience. And let ye not forget Reden Magtira’s incarnation of Mercutio.  His  sexually charged humor sent waves of laughter through the audience, but his delivery of “A curse on both your houses” sets the tone for the darkness that comes over act two.

The stagecraft was a very interesting departure from productions of Romeo and Juliet I have seen before. The neutral wood tones used on the set made scene changes non-jarring to the eye, Sound design for Romeo and Juliet’s final moments inside the tomb hit its mark. The stage lighting really takes the audience to their last moments.

It was truly a fine production rivaling a Broadway show, and at a reasonable price. In just a little over 2 hours, it makes a perfect date night out for students and anyone in the local community.

 The cast features: Bryce Ayers, Timothy Cabal, Max Dannenberg, Bayani Decastro, Tom Derby, Kyle Dowdy, Jonah Duhe, Josef Emmenegger, Kiva Fohrman, Sawyer Henderson, Rachael Hodge, Reden Magtira, John McCoy, Fabian Meraz, Shane Murphy, Lisa Naudi, Courtney Nedelman, Emily Neifert, Thomas Edward Niemann, Joey Prete, Ivan Quezada, Stephanie Russo, Griffin Dor Satoda, Alex Smith, Hayden Sprool, Alex Tanner and Jim Winkler, LaDawn Johnson, and nay ye forget Chloe Richardson

 Scheduled Performances:

                           Oct. 1, 6, 7, 8 at 7:30 p.m.

                                         Oct. 1, 2, 8, 9 at 2 p.m.

                                                      General admission $16

                                                                             Seniors $13

                                                                                                Staff $13

                                                                                                                 MCC Students $11

For tickets go to or the MCC Theatre Box Office.

Grapes of Wrath takes us back to Dust bowl

Last Friday, I took in the opening night of the Theatre Department’s powerfully performed a production of John Steinbeck’s 1939 classic The Grapes of Wrath adapted by Frank Galati. The campus theatre is a state of the art venue with great sound, intimate feel, and all around visual coverage. The set was transformed into early 1930s rural Oklahoma’s Dust Bowl where Steinbeck’s novel begins.

Within the first five minutes of the performance, Tom Joad and Jim Casy (Geoffrey Rocha and Timothy Cabal) had already coaxed two belly laughs out of the audience. Well, this is gearing up to be a success was all that came to mind. The production took the audience to the poverty stricken times of the early 30s Great Depression years. It was surprising how underneath some very well delivered comedy the desperation of the period could be felt throughout the performance. It was conveyed so distinctly that it was almost a tangible entity in the room.

After Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath was published in 1939, it became a bestseller and won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1940, yet it remains a controversial piece of literature. There were some agricultural associations that said the novel was “lies” and “propaganda.” The social-economic aspect of Steinbeck’s novel was an integral point that director/faculty member Eric Bishop seemed particularly passionate about. For millions the struggle we see in Grapes of Wrath is as much of a reality as it was 77 years ago. “We are doing this play because it has a lot of relevance to what’s happening today with the elections and the economic divide between groups. There are a lot of things that are relevant including the drought that is currently going on, and that plays into the ecological disasters we’ve had. I think our audience members will pick up on a lot of different themes that will resonate with them because of events happening today. I think what’s really important is that this play is about family and humanity; coming together with a sense of unity and community. That’s why it’s important we do this kind of theatre. Steinbeck was a proponent of social justice and he wrote to make change. The reason I do theatre is to utilize it as an agent of change as well. I hope our audiences leave the theatre feeling inspired and changed,” said Director Eric Bishop.

The cast includes: Matt Absosamra, Dylon Andersen, Bryce Ayers, Andrea Bullar, Timothy Cabal, Justin Carty, Travis Charon, Elle Dodaro , Kyle Dowdy, Josef Emmenegger, Mary Rae Fanta, Matthew Fennel, Kiva Fohrman, Sawyer Henderson, Ted Hoehn, Tad Holguin, Makena Hurd, Dickson Janda, Tyrone Jeffries, Reden Magtira, John McCoy, Shane Murphy, Marvin Mosely, Shane Murphy, Carol Naegele, Emily Neifert, Thomas Neiman, Brent Perkins, Geoff Rocha, Anabella Rojas, Stephanie Russo, Griffin Satoda, Kelly Saunders, Emily Scibetta, Alex Smith, Lila Wakili, Caitlin Walker and Sarah White.

The entire cast delivered a stunning performance. It is a must see for students, faculty and communities around the college area. It will have you laughing through sheets of tears and send you home feeling like you have just been treated to a play on Broadway. Running 2 hours with a 15 minute intermission it’s a perfect option for a night out with friends and family.