Time ran out for the courageous women who painted clock faces for the Radium Dial Company during the ‘20s and ‘30s, not knowing what their bosses knew: That radium poisoning was slowly killing them. Stoneham Theatre is currently presenting Melanie Marnich’s tragic drama about those very real women, called THOSE SHINING LIVES, through June 23rd.
Director Caitlin Lowans has assembled a stellar cast to honor them but alas, the first act runs awfully slow in setting up the relationship of the four women who bond over their deadly, iridescent work. Marnich’s play ticks along in hushed, subdued reverence, only breaking out of its somber tone in Act II when the husband of the principal character (the only husband or family we meet, curiously) gets to vent his anger toward their boss. The playwright chooses to let the women’s lawsuit (which changed workplace history) scream for them but it would have been satisfying to hear some righteous outrage in the play from the women themselves.
McCaela Donovan and Joe Short (who were dynamite together in Bridge Rep’s THE LOVER earlier this year) sweetly portray the innocent, hardworking couple whose lives are ruined by corporate criminals, with Short delivering the best line in the play, sending the fear of God into the company boss (Allan Mayo). Kathryn Myles is refreshing as Donovan’s mouthy co-worker and Melis Aker and Dakota Shepard are lovely as the other two unwitting dial painters. I wish we could have had more information about their lives away from work. That might have given the story more depth. All I could think of at play’s end was W.H. Auden’s poem about death and loss: STOP ALL THE CLOCKS.