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I’ve been hearing good things about Arkansas’s TheatreSquared for some time now, and it was long my plan to see a play there after paying a visit to the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, which is just 30 miles away and which I also have yet to see. But life kept getting in the way, and the coming of Covid-19 finished the job: I haven’t seen a play in a theater, in or out of New York, since March. So when TheatreSquared announced that it would be webcasting a production of Lauren Gunderson’s “The Half-Life of Marie Curie ” taped in an empty theater, I immediately put it on my schedule.
Ms. Gunderson’s work is rarely staged in New York, but she was the most frequently produced playwright in America (not counting Shakespeare) in 2017 and 2019, and it’s easy to see why. Not only does she specialize in feminist-angled plots whose protagonists are women, but she makes a special point of writing eminently practical plays that are carefully tailored to the specific needs of theater companies. Like all prolific artists, Ms. Gunderson’s work is uneven—she can be earnest to a fault when she has a political point to make—but at her best, she is a fine craftsman whose shows are always solidly made and on occasion inspired…..
“The Half-Life of Marie Curie,” a two-hander first performed off Broadway in 2019, falls somewhere in between the extremes of over-earnestness and inspiration. …
Nevertheless, the situation portrayed by Ms. Gunderson has the advantage of being inherently dramatic, and “The Half-Life of Marie Curie” is the kind of story that can easily take wing so long as the two actors are first-rate….
* * *Read the whole thing here.
Marie Curie appears in a 1931 Pathé sound newsreel: