Friday, March 14, 2008

the effect of gamma rays on man-in-the-moon marigolds

I've loved the play The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds since my seventh grade drama teacher assigned the opening scene of Act II to a couple of my classmates. (My friend Mandy and I did a scene from Mister Roberts, which meant we were playing guys, and this being seventh grade...well, I got a lot of "ugly fat fucking lesbian" remarks from the real guys, who I hope are all living miserable lives of gray-collar drudgery in the office parks of Central PA. But of course.) The plot centers around Tillie, a gentle, socially inept, and brilliant 15-year-old girl who lives with her slutty, abusive mother Beatrice, aspiring slut/tease, epileptic, chain-smoking sister Ruth, and a senile boarder called Nanny in a ramshackle tenement (is there any other kind?). Tillie is preparing to enter her school's science fair with her titular project. Just as they're all about to leave for the fair, Ruth cruelly whips out a Big, Terrible Secret about Beatrice (who is dressed in a moth-eaten, and probably rabbit urine-soaked mink stole--but of course), who has a nervous breakdown, leaving Tillie and Ruth to go to the science fair without her, and...well, assuming it's on DVD, stick the movie version in your Netflix queue and find out what happens for yourself. I haven't seen it, but it's got Joanne Woodward, so you can't miss there. (God, I hate plot descriptions.)

So the play's kind of fucked up, and maybe teachers shouldn't be giving it to impressionable young women, at least by today's bumper pool standards. On the other hand, the kids having the rainbow parties today are the same ones who were smarmed by the banality of a purple pederast dinosaur in their toddlerhoods. Maybe if they'd had more of an opportunity to find out that life's a bitch, then you die in the safer haven of, you know, books...? I ain't saying; I'm just saying. Except I'm totally saying. So.

This is a, um, graphic depiction of the play's last line, but it's pretty opaque, so I figured it was safe to post. I mean, it doesn't give away the ending or anything.

And this is Paul Zindel, the author. Remember The Pigman and My Darling, My Hamburger? Same guy.

And this is the incomparable Joanne Woodward with her daughter, Nell Newman, in the motion picture version:

Photos of Paul Zindel and Joanne Woodward courtesy of The Official Paul Zindel Website.

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