Sunday, October 31, 2021

Radium Girls

Many years ago, when I was an intern at Playwrights Theatre of New Jersey, everyone was talking about a recent hit called Radium Girls.

Though I never got a chance to see that production (it was before I had moved to the area) I remember seeing the publicity stills the theatre used in marketing materials. They had clearly created something special.

That's why I was excited when I found out that Metropolitan Playhouse would be doing a New York City production of the play. D.W. Gregory, who wrote the piece, is also known for the plays Salvation Road and Memoirs of a Forgotten Man, but Radium Girls is her best known work.

Based on a true story, Radium Girls shows a group of young women who work in a factory painting glow-in-the-dark paint onto watch numbers. In order to get the numbers just right, it's important that they use their mouths to wet the brushes. Of course, the paint they're using is radioactive, so this is not going to go well.

Very little of the play features fun-loving radium girls getting up to shenanigans in the factory (though we do get that scene). Instead, we see the long march toward death as the women one by one fall pray to radiation-induced illness. Will there ever be justice? Will the factory's owners have to pay? Will the businessmen who allowed this outrage get away with it all?

Well, we already know the answers to these questions. Still, the play allows us to ruminate on issues of law, morality, and science that are just as relevant in the early 21st century as they were in the early 20th when the play takes place.

Radium Girls is playing until November 21st, so get your tickets now!