Review

The Edge of Hopelessness

Jan 20 2012
Terry Teachout | Wall Street Journal

...Palm Beach Dramaworks' new production of "Gamma Rays" would be worthy of note for that reason alone. Fortunately, there's a better reason to see it: William Hayes, the company's artistic director, has given Mr. Zindel's play the kind of revival of which every frustrated playwright dreams, one so profoundly comprehending and persuasively acted that you'll leave the theater wondering how "Gamma Rays" could ever have been forgotten, however briefly. Enhancing the immediacy of the staging is the troupe's unusually shallow 218-seat theater, whose last row of seats is only 34 feet from the stage. The handsome new venue, which opened in November, manages to preserve the striking intimacy of the fast-growing company's old 84-seat performing space. ...Stock stuff, in other words, but Mr. Zindel has charged it with the kind of passionate feeling that can ennoble the least original of scripts, and no sooner does "Gamma Rays" get under way than you are drawn irresistibly into the Hunsdorfers' unhappy lives. He also takes care to provide just enough hope to make the play bearable, though never so much as to undercut its hard-earned anguish. ...Mr. Hayes' chief contribution to the proceedings is to keep every element of the production, including the performances, in perfect equipoise. Nothing is exaggerated or disproportionate. He has also assembled a stellar production team led by Michael Amico, whose grimy storefront set reeks of what Ruth Gordon once called "the dark-brown taste of being poor," and Sean Dolan, the lighting designer, who ends the play with a gorgeously well-calculated effect that sweeps the audience into and out of the Hunsdorfers' dark world in a single evanescent flash of beauty. Rarely have I been so moved by a play, or so impressed by the company that produced it.