Theatre Mirror Reviews "These Shining Lives"


"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

entire contents copyright 2014 by Tony Annicone

"These Shining Lives"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

Providence College Theatre's current show is Melanie Mernich's "These Shining Lives". The show is set in the 1920's and early 1930's in Chicago's fictional Radium Dial Factory and is inspired by the true story of the four young women who worked at a factory in New Jersey. They painted luminous dials on the clocks and watches. They ingested large amounts of the radium when they licked the tip of the paintbrush that eventually killed them. Catherine who is a married mother of two children is the narrator who applies for a job at the factory, is hired and becomes friends with Pearl, Charlotte and Frances. Catherine decides to stand up to the company when the women start to suffer the effects from the radium. The company denies that it knowingly poisoned the women. The show is a gut wrenching, dramatic show full of pathos and terrific performance from these 8 college students. Director Rachel Walshe casts these strong women beautifully in this show. It delivers a powerful message about greed in the business world and their uncaring attitude throughout the early twentieth century. These women refuse to allow the company that stole their health to destroy those who will work there in the future.

The gorgeous unit set is by Sara Ossana and the lovely period costumes are by Marilyn Salvatore. Beautiful blonde Aubrey Dion plays the leading role of Catherine. She captures the angst of the character excellently and her interactions with her fellow cast members is astounding. Aubrey delivers a brilliant performance that leaves you in tears at the close of the show. She displays how the radium affected her body by her stance and limp, eventually collapsing into her husband's arms. The other girls deliver the goods in this powerful show and are splendid, too.  Their camaraderie is shown when they bond when they visit the shore and sing "By the Beautiful Sea". The first time is a joyous celebration while their last time is poignant as you hear what happened to each of the women. Katerina Pavao plays Pearl who is the joke teller. Grace Curley plays Charlotte who is the fastest worker in the factory. Charlotte is standoffish at first but eventually accepts Catherine into their little circle after they go for a banana split. Grace has a tear jerking moment with Aubrey when her character realizes the gravity of their dire situation of radium poisoning.  The truthful Frances is played by Marisa Urgo. Rachel gives each of her performers to shine.

The four men in the show do a beautiful job with their roles, too. Catherine's husband is played by George Killian who delivers an electrifying performance as he confronts the factory boss, saying he expected to grow old with his wife but now that won't happen because Mr. Reed was only concerned about making money for the company and not caring about the lives of the employees. George also plays a Chicago doctor bringing bad news to the four women. Dan Caplin plays the jovial boss, Mr. Reed, who keeps trying to placate the women as the show goes along. He breaks down in tears when he is confronted by the angry husband near the close of the show. Rounding out the cast is Logan Serabian as the company doctor who tells the women to take an aspirin and Ben Williams as the short tempered lawyer. So for a look back at a tragic time in America's past, be sure to catch "These Shining Lives". It shows corporate America only cares about the almighty dollar over the lives of their workers. It definitely tugs on your heartstrings, leaving you in tears at the impact of these talented performers..

"These Shining Lives" (7 - 16 February)
@ Smith Street, PROVIDENCE RI

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide