SVSU theatre premiers show about toxic family units

Actors put on the play “The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds” this past weekend. Vanguard Photographer | Anna Alexander

Saginaw Valley State University’s theater department debuted their production of Paul Zindle’s “The Effects of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds” this past week.

The play opened on its Nov 16. performance and ran through the evening of Nov 20. with a total of five
performances in the Malcolm Field Theater Hall.

The show centers around a dysfunctional family, made of Beatrice (played by Alexis Schultz), a domineering mother and her two daughters, Matilda (Paige Tuckerman) and Ruth (Zoe Gilbert) and their interactions in their home.

The plot is driven by Matilda’s involvement in her school’s science fair, in which she is displaying the different growth habits of flower seeds which have been exposed to radioactive materials.

Peggy Mead-Finizio, the director of the production and professor of theater at SVSU, wrote about her connection to the story in the playbill.

“The Effects of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds is a play I have wanted to work on since I was in 8th grade,” she wrote “When reading the script as an 8th grader, I was excited because I was a similar age to Tillie and could see myself in her insecurities and her drive to persevere.”

She mentioned how lasting the effects the play had on her have been. And how this production aimed to recreate that feeling in the audience.

“Through the years, I have revisited the script and imagined what might have happened to Tillie after the events in the play,” Mead-Finizio said. “Our version of the play places her in 9th grade and I hope younger audience members can relate to the story of our protagonist. I still relate to her in some ways. Maybe you will too. ”

Daija Thornton, a sophomore pre-health student, played Janice, Matilda’s main rival in the science fair whose project involved preserving a cat’s skeleton.

Thornton reflected on her experience with the play:

“This is my first show so one of the challenges I had to get over was being awkward when I was connecting with my character and saying her lines,” she said. “I don’t really “connect” with the play per se since my character doesn’t interact with the rest of the world the play is set on, but I have connected with Janice in trying to put reason behind why she did what she did for her science project.”

Thornton also shared a bit about how she hoped her performance would impact the audience, as well as her highlights from the production.

“I hope they find Janice funny and that the way I portray her is entertaining to watch,” Thornton said. “(Overall) I think the turnout has been pretty good, especially with how the weather has been. My favorite part of Gamma Rays is Salvador, the rabbit and seeing him eat his treats.”

Lila Duvendack, a freshman theater and psychology major played Nannie, an elderly boarder who lives with Matilda’s family.

Duvendack also shared some of her favorite parts of the production.

“My favorite part of this production is working with such amazing cast and crew members- especially Salvador our rabbit.” She said “I connect a lot with the message (of the play). Finding those moments of optimism and hope is something I’ve found crucial in my life when things felt harder and it’s lovely to see”

Duvendack continued, describing some of the hardship she faced in her role as well.

“My personal challenges mostly followed being able to properly show the age of Nanny.” Duvendack said “We initially had plans to use prosthetics, but I learned late in the process I have negative reactions to (them), and we had little time to shift to makeup instead. This was also my first time playing a character of such an age so being able to properly embody the physicality was also a learning curve”

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