October 8, 9, 15, 16, 17, 1993
Plank Road School
acid-tongued, supporting herself and her two daughters by taking in a
decrepit old boarder, Beatrice Hunsdorfer wreaks a petty vengeance on
everybody around her. One daughter, Ruth, is a pretty but highly strung
girl subject to convulsions; while the younger daughter, Matilda, plain
and almost pathologically shy, has an intuitive gift for science.
Encouraged by her teacher, Tillie undertakes a gamma ray experiment with
marigolds that wins a prize at her high school—and also brings on the
shattering climax of the play. Proud and yet jealous, too filled with
her own hurts to accept her daughter's success, Beatrice can only maim
when she needs to love and deride when she wants to praise. Tortured,
acerbic, slatternly, she is as much a victim of her own nature as of the
cruel lot that has been hers. And yet, as Tillie's experiment proves,
something beautiful and full of promise can emerge from even the most
barren, afflicted soil.