Front Row Centre reviews RADIUM GIRLS
No one meant for it to happen. Everyone thought radium was a miracle cure all, until people started dying.
D.W.Gregory's play RADIUM GIRLS, takes a hard look at the tragic real life events that led to painful illness and death for a number of workers in the US Radium Corporation.
The play has been chosen as the season opener for Theatre Erindale at University of Toronto, Mississauga.
Based on news stories and trial transcripts, the story begins just after World War One as Grace Fryer and her friends are working in the factory painting watch dials. They are instructed to "point" their brushes on their lips. No one ever considers the possibility of potential harm. Yet soon one of the girls dies, others begin suffering various ailments. A doctor hired by the factory assures the girls they are healthy. The truth is that they are dying and the company is merely trying to buy time, hoping that the statute of limitations will expire leaving them free of any responsibility. The play follows five girls in their fight for their day in court.
In lesser hands it could be no more than a TV movie of the week, but Gregory's play is potent drama
As Grace Fryer, the girl who almost single handedly takes on the powerful US Radium Corporation, Karita Mullins plays the gamut of emotions without ever veering off into melodramatics. When she breaks down in the second act it is a moment of pure emotion. She IS Grace, she isn't just playing Grace.
Equally challenging is the role of Arthur Roeder, the company president, putting his personal success above that of his former employees. Craig McDermott offers a realistic portrayal of a man troubled by doubts and driven by fear.
The rest of the large ensemble cast play a variety of roles in a finely tuned production that moves along at a brisk pace thanks to the sharp direction of Ralph Small.
Where the script is strongest is in humanizing the plight of the five girls who fought for their day in court. Dubbed the "Radium Girls" by the press, their story fascinated readers for years.
The play will fascinate you as well.