The production is running in repertory with Marivaux's The Triumph of Love.
The play, about an opinionated, pushy mother named Beatrice and the impact she has on her two daughters, is a staple of regional, college and community theatres. The work also won a New York Drama Critics' Circle Award.
The Effect of Gamma Rays had a tortuous path toward greater fame. It was first staged at Houston's Alley Theatre in 1965, then at the White Barn Theatre in Connecticut in the summer of 1966. A trimmed version starring Eileen Heckart as the mother appeared on television (NET's New York Television Theatre, according to the book, "Best Plays of the '70s"). The Cleveland Playhouse then produced it, subsequent to its Off-Broadway bow in 1970 at the Mercer-O'Casey Theatre. Critics embraced it (Variety said it was the best play of its kind since The Glass Menagerie) and it transferred to The New Theatre for an 819 performance run. A Broadway production played briefly in 1978.
Zindel died of cancer March 27 in Manhattan. The playwright was 66. A spokesman for the Jean Cocteau said Zindel visited the theatre not long before he died.
For information, call (212) 677-0060. The play returns to the repertory April 4. Visit jeancocteaurep.org. *
Mr. Zindel was born and raised on Staten Island, and his family was run by a suspicious, defensive mother who would become the inspiration for the mother on Effect of Gamma Rays, he said in interviews. At Wagner College, his major was chemistry, but he maintained an interest in creative writing. One of his creative writing teachers was Edward Albee. Mr. Zindel earned B.S. and M.S. degrees in chemistry.
After college, he was a technical writer for a chemical company and later taught chemistry at Tottenville High School on Staten Island. He wrote plays during his time as a teacher. In 1964, A Dream of Swallows was produced Off-Broadway.
His play after Effect of Gamma Ray was And Miss Reardon Drinks a Little, produced on Broadway in 1971 with a trio of actresses considered an embarrassment of riches: Julie Harris, Nancy Marchand and Estelle Parsons (who was Tony Award-nominated for it). Rae Allen won the Best Featured Actress (Play) Tony Award.
In 1972, Maureen Stapleton starred in Broadway's The Secret Affairs of Mildred Wild, a Walter Mitty-like tale of a woman who fantasizes in the back room of a Greenwich Village candy shop cluttered with cinematic memorabilia.
In 1977, his Ladies at the Alamo was staged on Broadway.
His other credits include the screenplays to "Mame," "Runawau Train," "Up the Sandbox," "Let Me Hear You Whisper," and the short play The Ladies Should Be in Bed. A play called Dimensions of Peacocks was produced Off-Off Broadway in 1959.
Mr. Zindel received and honorary doctor of humane letters from Wagner College. He is survived by children David and Lizabeth, sister Betty Hagen and his former wife, Bonnie.
He also penned a series of books for young people. Titles include "The Pigman," "My Darling, My Hamburger," "Confessions of a Teen Age Baboon" and "Pardon Me, You're Stepping on My Eyeball."