Marshall has been darkly menacing to great effect many times on Portland stages; the choice to moderate her character's extremism has another casualty, too: flattening the performance of the only experienced actor on the stage for most of the play. Druchniak and Gray are high-school students, and talented ones: Druchniak's ability to utterly disappear on stage borders on Cheshire-like; Gray's flip-flopping moods seem very genuine teenager. While their characters have some irregularity written in, their inexperience accounts for some additional unevenness.

Mad Horse has chosen a play that is both strong and deep enough to make the production powerful, and the final scene, just after the dread moment arrives when the effects of the toxic radiation truly begin to blossom, is both poignant and pitiful — leaving the audience to ponder, after the blackout, what in fact remains of these half-lives.

Jeff Inglis can be reached at

THE EFFECT OF GAMMA RAYS ON MAN-IN-THE-MOON MARIGOLDS | by Paul Zindel | directed by Chris Horton | produced by Mad Horse Theatre Company | at Lucid Stage, in Portland | through April 1 | 207.899.3993

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