RVP Presents “These Shining Lives” a Dramatic Ode to Factory Working Women


Ross Valley Players dial back the industrial clock on women in the 1920’s workforce with its production of “These Shining Lives. Written by award-winning playwright Melanie Marnich and directed by Mary Ann Rodgers, this poignant drama highlights the fine ensemble acting of its excellent cast.

We witness the lives of four women who are work-place friends and compete against each other to paint the most clock and watch faces each day for several years. They work with fine-point paint brushes, the tips of which are moistened between their lips and dipped into radium powder.  Their task-master-supervisor and the company doctor, Mr. Reed, was performed to perfection with the corporate-company-man mentality and attitude by Malcolm B. Rodgers, who also played the distinguished attorney, Leonard Grossman, on behalf of the four women.

Jessica Dahlgren’s performance as Catherine was excellent (and heartbreaking) as the very-dedicated employee who also knew she was terribly ill and wonderful as a wife and Mother who felt she had to continue working for the benefit of her family and, also, to not desert her co-workers.  Frankie Stornaiuolo was wonderful as Catherine’s devoted husband, Tom (and also believable in his dual role as the doctor to diagnose the illness being suffered by Catherine).  Sarah Williams was outstanding as the die-hard Charlotte who was the last to admit she was ill; Jazmine Pierce was quite believable as the ailing Frances and good friend/co-worker; and Carly Van Liere was very good as Pearl, ill but also determined to continue working. Of special note is the sensitivity of which the intimacy scenes were coached by Richard Squeri.

The set was exceptionally well-designed by Malcolm B. Rodgers, built by Michael Walraven, and painted by Kristy Arroyo.   Property Design was by Tom O’Brien, with everything strategically placed. The stage centerpiece was a huge 4-foot diameter (and beautiful) clock at the back of the set. Even the lighting fixtures were well-appointed and placed on the sides and above the factory floor. The desks and stools at center stage were stark images of the discomfort the workers sitting in discomfort as they doing the intricate radium painting.

At stage right, there were 2-armless upholstered cushion chairs with a small round end table nearby for the dishes and cups unobtrusively shelved nearby. The chairs were quickly and cleverly put together for the scenes depicting Catherine lying on them when she was ill and poignant moments with Tom.  The company desk and chairs of Mr. Reed were stage left.

Moving the furniture was flawlessly performed and took the least amount of time possible, as achieved by the Stage Manager Madge Grahn with Assistant Stage Managers, Chani Gordan and Halina. Tina Johnson’s Lighting Design was appropriately nuanced, and the period music and Sound/Projection Design by Billie Cox was spot-on, including the sound/projection of the children’s voices (performed by Lucien Crane and Sybella Crane). Period costumes were meticulously-designed by Michael A. Berg.

By Elle Alexa Simon
With Flora Lynn Isaacson, Critic, San Francisco Bay Area Critics Circle
Photography by Gregg Le Blanc
Publicity By Karin Conn

Performances of These Shining Lives began March 8 and will continue through March 28, 2019. Performances are Thursdays (7:30PM); Fridays and Saturdays (8:00PM); and Sunday Matinees (2:00PM).

Tickets may be purchased online at www.RossValleyPlayers.com or call 800/838-9555, and tickets for School Groups, call 415-456-9555, ext. 3.  All performances take place at The Barn, home of the Ross Valley Players, Marin Art and Garden Center, 30 Sir Francis Drake Blvd. Ross.

Coming up next at Ross Valley Players: April 12-28, 2019, “Scott & Zelda – The Beautiful Fools” by Lance S. Belville and directed by Lynn Lohr.