Christopher Smith Photo / Tillie, played by Emily Clift, prepares a science fair experiment involving marigolds raised from seeds exposed to radioactivity.

If you go

* What: “The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds”

* Where: Mars Theatre, 117 N. Chattanooga Ave., LaFayette, Ga.

* When: 7:30 p.m. Sept. 13-14, 20-21; 2 p.m. Sept. 15 and 22

* Admission: $16 and $13

* For more information: 706-621-2870

Back Alley Productions tackles themes of family and perseverance when "The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds" opens Friday, Sept. 13, for six performances over two weekends in LaFayette, Georgia.

"The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds" details the story of the Hunsdorfers, a dysfunctional family living in poverty in a converted grocery store during the 1960s. To make ends meet, the mother, Beatrice, houses and cares for an elderly woman they call Nanny. When Beatrice isn't berating Nanny or abusive to her daughters, she's dwelling endlessly on how miserable her life has been.

"Marigolds" focuses on shy Matilda Hunsdorfer, nicknamed Tillie, as she prepares a science fair experiment involving marigolds raised from seeds exposed to radioactivity. She is, however, constantly thwarted by her abusive mother and by her extroverted and unstable sister, Ruth, who submits to her mother's controlling will.

Ruth is an epileptic with an obsessive need to be liked by everyone; Tillie escapes their bleak situation through her love of science. When Tillie faces off against the smug and self-important Janice Vickery in the science fair, the tenuous bonds holding the family together start to fray, driven primarily by Beatrice's constant thwarting of Tillie's success.

"Many people have asked me why I chose such a dark play for my directorial debut at Back Alley," said Krystale Dawson, director. "And the truth is, I think we can all connect to each of the characters on some level. During different periods of my life, I've felt like each of them: filled with regrets and recriminations like Beatrice, obsessed with how others see me like Ruth, and possessed with a hopeful and determined nature like Tillie.

"We live in a world where horrible things happen constantly. All you have to do is turn on the TV to see some of the pain and anguish in our world. So stories like 'Marigolds,' despite its heavy themes about family, can help remind us all that despite seemingly insurmountable circumstances, 'where there's life, there's hope,' as the old saying goes."

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— Compiled by Susan Pierce


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