Theater season kicks off with “Marigolds”

Just what is “The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds”? On Sept. 20 and 21, the Gremlin Theater company answered the St. Olaf Community’s questions. The actors responded with a display of ethereal escapes into science, effective manipulation and the refusal to be anything less than extraordinary.

The play centers on Tillie, an introverted girl who escapes her abusive mother and unstable sister through her fascination with science. As Tillie competes in her school’s science fair, Beatrice, her embittered mother, snatches every opportunity to prevent her daughter from surpassing her own accomplishments.

After bouts of alcohol-induced delirium, drug abuse, her sister Ruth’s nervous breakdowns and several attempts at intervention by Tillie’s science teacher, everyone except the brilliant-yet-shy girl emerges broken and crushed.

In portraying Tillie, Caledonia Wilson managed to capture not only the girl’s individuality but also her quiet strength. Wilson lent Tillie a wisdom beyond her years that still seemed appropriate for her character.

Eleonore Dendy’s Ruth deftly swung from ecstatic gossip to a frighteningly realistic nervous collapse, all in the course of a few minutes, keeping the audience locked in suspense. Even in her cruelest moments with Wilson, Dendy made Ruth a character that could be sympathized with and rooted for.

Jodi Kellogg’s Beatrice managed to emphasize the tortured soul within Beatrice and the embarrassment behind her vicious actions. With a fiery look in her eyes, Kellogg embodied scathing anger and jealousy.

Beyond startlingly realistic acting, the setting also contributed immensely to the show. The cluttered setting seemed barely held together with the metaphorical remnants of the past that littered the living room. With its bright colors, the setting clung to the hope that circumstances would improve, though the torn newspaper on the windows effectively indicated otherwise.

The open ending, which offered no closure to any of the characters’ plotlines save the family rabbit and the radioactive marigolds, left me feeling unsettled as I walked out of Haugen Theater. But the play did offer one heartwarming realization: Tillie realized her own importance.

A tale of determination, success against all odds, self destruction, abuse, fear and the power of hope, “Marigolds” did not necessarily leave you smiling, but it was definitely worth the watch. The play grows more endearing upon further contemplation, proving that while directly following the play one might feel emotionally drained, time watching it was not wasted. Tillie’s enduring belief that all are capable of whatever they set their minds to is a refreshing reminder amidst the everyday stress of college life. It might just inspire audience members to new endeavors.

Speaking of new interests, it is time to announce the St. Olaf College Theatre 2013-2014 season:

The season kicks off with performances of “Baltimore Waltz,” directed by Assistant Professor of Theater Jeanne Willcoxon, on Oct. 3-6. The show follows a brother and his dying sister as they embark on one final adventure together searching for pleasure and a cure. But who is the third person helping them? Auditions for this show have already passed, but never fear, there are more options for potential thespians. You can now get tickets for “Baltimore Waltz” online.

Next is the musical “In the Heights,” directed by Professor of Theater Karen Peterson Wilson. It runs Nov. 15-17 and 21-23. This is a story of heartaches and celebrations as a community on the edge of change has to decide what traditions to keep and which to let go. Audition dates for this show have also already passed.

Still looking for a course for Interim? Look no further: This year’s Interim show “The Skin of Our Teeth” will be directed by Artist in Residence Dona Werner Freeman. The show itself will run February 14-16 and 21-23. It follows a family through tragic and comedic crises that test their perseverance.

The annual student-run play will be directed this year by Sterling Melcher ’14. “The Chairs” will run March 13-16. It follows an elderly couple who have invited their friends to hear an old man’s “message to humanity,” only all the guests are invisible. Are the guests there? What’s the message?

The musical “Oh, What a Lovely War” will be the final production of the year. Artist in Residence Gary Gisselman will direct, and the show will run April 10-13. Its subject is the involvement of the British in World War I seen from the perspective of a working class family.

Stay tuned for audition dates for all shows following “In the Heights.” Break a leg!

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