The Radiant

nytheatre.com review by Joan Kane
February 23, 2013

If you are looking to explore the life and times of Marie Curie, I suggest you catch the Red Fern Theatre Company’s production of The Radiant by Shirley Lauro. Red Fern’s mission is to provoke social awareness and change through production and outreach. They have paired with The Association for Woman in Science to tell the story of Marie Sklodowska Curie.

Marie Curie was a major rock star of scientists. She was the first woman to win a Noble Prize and the only woman to win two Nobel prizes in two fields.  She was the first female professor to hold a position in the male dominated University of Paris – Le Sorbonne. Her achievements included a theory of radioactivity, techniques for isolating radioactive isotopes and the discovery of two elements: polonium and radium. Marie refused to patent the radium isolation process that she discovered, so the scientific community could be free to conduct research that would benefit humankind. Her legacy lives on through the Curie Institute in Paris, which is a major center of medical research today.

Shirley Lauro’s play begins after Marie Curie’s husband’s skull is crushed on a rain soaked night by a horse drawn vehicle. Widowed with two children to feed she retains her husband Pierre’s teaching position at Le Sorbonne. Later she tries to obtain entrance into the male dominated French Academy of Sciences but is refused because she is a woman.  The majority of Lauro’s play focuses the year (1910-1911) during which Marie carried on a love affair with her handsome, married, young, Catholic lab assistant, Paul Langevin. His brother–in-law, a major media baron, used their affair to aid the Right Wing press in Paris in battering Marie for being a foreigner, an atheist and a woman.

Director, Melanie Mayer Williams keeps the action moving smoothly from one scene to the next and has guided her actors to deliver moving performances. Timothy Doyle, AJ Cedeno, and Rachel Berger bring details of the period to their behavior and speech.  Diana LaMar’s nuanced portrayal of Marie Curie was stunning. She easily channeled the courageous fighting spirit of Marie Curie. I especially enjoyed the scene in which she passionately stands up to the Academy of Science and Arts to demand why her work should be judged based on her personal life and gender. The time period and characters and various locations were depicted through Rowan Doyle’s understated scenic design, Sam Gordon’s textured lighting, and T. Michael Hall’s beautiful costumes.  I enjoyed this evening of theatre experiencing the life of this amazing, brave woman who was a trail blazer in the fields of science.

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