North Drama Club Glows in “Radium Girls”
Volume 4 Issue 2
January 16, 2024
Image Provided by Amy Italiano
North’s Drama Club presented Radium Girls which ran on the cafeteria stage for three performances from Friday evening, November 17 to Saturday evening, November 18. Described as a “powerful” and “engrossing” drama by critics, it follows the early 20th-century story of young women who applied radium to watches under the belief that it was a substance with no harmful side effects. In time, the devastating side effects in fact wreaked havoc on their bodies, leading to a major lawsuit against the US Radium Corporation, the company that employed them.
The play begins with the girls working at a radium watch factory owned by the US Radium Corporation. They cleaned the radium-covered brushes with their mouths under the impression that it was safe – after all, Marie Curie, played by Zaida Ayestas, had told them so. However, after a few years, the girls begin to fall ill stemming from a jaw condition – this leads to one of the girls, Irene, played by Gianna Perlaza, dying. Irene’s two friends from the factory, Grace, played by Isabella Mascetti, and Kathryn, played by Quinn O’Connor, question the factory and its owner, Arthur Roeder, played by Rachel Ezeadichie, over the mysterious deaths of Irene and other girls from the factory.
While they begin to question the radium factory, Grace and Kathryn begin to fall ill themselves. This only heightens their suspicions about radium and its side effects. As more women die and the government begins investigating the plant, members of the press, played by Justin Levine and Carolina Caraballo, brings the story to national attention. Grace, driven by support across the country, begins the process of suing the US Radium Corporation, while the company scrambles to mitigate the reputational damage, hiring investigators and lying to the government about the results.
The heightened pressures on Grace take a toll on her relationships with her boyfriend, Tom, played by Giancarlo Oliveri, and her mother, played by Laney Ching. Continuing to press on with her lawsuit, she rejects substantial cash offers from the press for exclusive coverage and from the US Radium Corporation to halt the suit. Eventually, the situation reaches a tipping point, with internal conflicts inside the company over the mismanagement of the crisis and the founder, Edward Markley, played by Bryce Sloane, revealing that radium is, in fact, extremely dangerous.
The judge for the lawsuit, also played by Laney Ching, lets the lawsuit advance to a trial, despite the Corporation’s continued attempts to delay the trial. Eventually, the affected women and the US Radium Corporation reached a settlement for the company to pay each woman a substantial cash sum and to pay for their medical bills resulting from their radium illnesses. Grace returns to a more normal life, although she is severely debilitated.
The performance was a masterpiece and captivated the audience’s attention and emotions throughout with the strength of the actors’ performances and the seamless work of the stage and tech crew. Dr. Small claimed that it “was a shining testament to the talents of the young actors and stage crew,” while Ms. Belbol, the English Department Chair, commented that the “performances were deeply emotional, leaving the audience in tears and in shock at this deeply troubling story in our American history.” A phenomenal job by the Radium Girls cast and crew!